When Donald Romine took a summer job right out of college in 1973 at Web Industries Inc., he was thinking with his heart.
So was his new boss, Robert Fulton, the founder of the flexible material converter and contract manufacturing business.
Based in Marlborough, Mass., the company wasn't too far from a New England woman that a smitten Romine had met at a summer camp in Pennsylvania.
Fulton was at the camp, too, and knew about the budding romance. He offered the 21-year-old with a degree in oceanic technology some work so he could at least see his bride-to-be on weekends.
Romine figured he would stay a year or so to earn some money, get some career direction and then continue his education.
"My parents and four younger siblings had just returned from over 20 years of serving as missionaries in Southeast Asia. Finances and family resources were close to zip at that time," Romine said in an email.
During that year, he grew fond of Web, too, and stayed. Romine worked his way up from a machine operator at a company that did $1 million in sales in 1974 to CEO in 1991. Then, in 1993, he collaborated with Fulton and others to sell 100 percent of the company to the employees.
Web was a $160 million enterprise in 2016, Romine said, with a focus on the four markets of aerospace advanced composites, medical diagnostics, health and hygiene, and wire and cable. The company's outlook is bright, he added.
"Today, our opportunity pipelines are healthy as we continue to forge long-term strategic manufacturing relationships, solving big problems for market leaders and delivering high value and speed to market," Romine said. "Our big challenge is scaling for growth to meet the promises made."
In May, the business announced the opening of a development and qualification center near Atlanta to serve airplane OEMs. The industry is looking to convert 20 percent of aircraft parts to thermoplastics, according to Web. However, the capacity isn't there for the materials that can be stronger, lighter weight, more heat-resistant and welded instead of fastened.
Web is gearing up to capitalize on the opportunity just like Fulton, its retired founder and chairman emeritus, would, according to Romine. He describes his mentor as a values-centered risk-taker with a positive attitude about the potential of people to grow.
Romine said Fulton taught him to be "humble in spirit, and believe that teamwork produces extraordinary results" as well as that "a healthy culture and organization values are as important as good strategy and financial performance in measuring success."
The buyout of Fulton and others took until 2000 but was completed three years early. Romine then shifted attention to updating the legacy business strategy away from a regional service model to a market-focused model by about 2004. From an operational standpoint, he looked at culture, skills, systems and technology, and from a sales standpoint, his emphasis was on people, process, solutions and tools.
Technology gets a lot of attention as the company moves toward more automation. Romine said the slitting equipment he used during his first summer of work at Web has been greatly enhanced and barely resembles the original technology.
"Our innovations in process technology, product quality, documentation and information systems must stay ahead and lead to lower cost and higher performance in the future," Romine said. "It is what customers expect and need to stay competitive with Web Industries as their strategic manufacturing partner."
Romine said Web has managed to create "an unwavering pursuit of excellence to develop each and every lobe of the business to grow over the long term." He is proud of the result.
"Together, truly as a team, we have built a special company whose customers are happy, employees are highly engaged, and who behave like business people because they own the company. And, it's a company whose longer-term prospects for sustaining profitable growth are strong," Romine said.