(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series about Oak Ridge’s Buzz Patrick. The second article, which posts soon, will begin a multi-part series on the region’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee.)
Buzz Patrick says “my goal was always moving South” and, now that he and his family are firmly settled in Oak Ridge, the Michigan native who was raised in Northern Minnesota is doing everything he can to champion the community’s long-term success.
He’s a member of the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, Vice President of Fund Distribution for the United Way of Anderson County, and previously filled a vacancy on the Anderson County Commission. He also served until recently as Chief Operating Officer of Omega Technical Services, but has now taken on his latest challenge as Director of Advanced Manufacturing for Tech 20/20.
Seven years after arriving in Oak Ridge, it is clear that Patrick is a driven man. How he got here and what he is doing to make a difference is a story in determination, passion, vision and commitment.
In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Patrick said that he had three cities in mind to escape the winters of Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They were Albuquerque, Charleston, and Knoxville/Oak Ridge.
“I wanted to find the right place to raise my family,” said the Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiast who has ridden in 49 of the 50 states. The only one left is Alaska.
In fact, Patrick’s journey to East Tennessee starts with his only career before arriving here. He was hired by Harley-Davidson in 1993 while a student at Michigan Technological University and worked at the company’s plants in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
“I never worked for any company other than Harley until coming to Oak Ridge,” Patrick explained.
He was Site Manager for Harley-Davidson’s third shift at its York Vehicle Operations plant in Pennsylvania when a headhunter called about an opportunity to run a new facility in Clinton called Omega Cabinetry that was a subsidiary of MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc., in Jasper, IN.
Patrick accepted the job as General Manager and the family – his wife and two children – moved to Oak Ridge in 2005. “It (the community) was just the way I pictured it . . . friendly, friendly, friendly,” he said.
“Things were going great (at Omega Cabinetry) until the recession hit,” Patrick explained. Production at MasterBrand and its Omega subsidiary dropped from 2,500 cabinets a day to 700, forcing the closure of the Clinton plant.
Patrick had an opportunity to relocate to Las Vegas, but the family’s passion for the community and his wife’s plans for a now robust construction business convinced him that “it was time to take a chance and find something around here.” That something was a different Omega, one called Omega Consultants. It is a woman-owned small business that provided mostly consulting services at the time.
Patrick said that he was convinced joining Omega Consultants was the right decision 15 minutes into a conversation at the local Starbucks.
“My goal was to get them to make something at a company that mostly consulted,” he said. His plan led to developing a contracting business and building a classified warehouse in Oak Ridge.
“I love building things,” Patrick said, adding that he is particularly passionate about start-ups and turnarounds. With those desires and a background in manufacturing, it was only natural that he would be attracted to the opportunity that John Morris of Tech 20/20 presented to him in the latter half of 2012.
NEXT: Patrick is leading the consortium to develop the Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee (AMP!).