Denver — For a small custom injection molder, Denver-based Intertech Plastics Inc. has a big presence on the international stage.
That's thanks to Noel Ginsburg, who founded the company in 1980. How many other plastics company executives lead delegations of state leaders to Switzerland to learn about apprentice programs?
Or run for governor of Colorado, for that matter? (Ginsburg ran in 2018 but dropped out before the primary election.)
From the beginning, Ginsburg wanted Intertech to be more than an injection molding company.
"I didn't start the company to get rich. It was built to make a life," he said.
His son, Intertech Director of Sales Corey Ginsburg, adds: "I would tell you that the company was founded on the premise that it was a platform to give back to the community. It's never just been about revenue or profitability."
Those efforts, especially the company's commitment to education, make Intertech Plastics the 2018 winner of the Plastics News Excellence Award for industry and public service.
Noel Ginsburg drafted the plan for an injection molding company in 1979 for a class he was taking at the University of Denver. Within a year, his dream was a real company: Container Industries. He had 12 employees and three used injection presses, molding 2-, 4- and 5-gallon food pails.
Ginsburg had three goals: to go into manufacturing, to provide for his family and to give back to the community.
One of his early forays into public service involved a drug rehabilitation program. Ginsburg was on the program's board of directors, and Intertech employed people who were in recovery.
He quickly realized that there was a need to help younger people.
"I saw all the problems that people were dealing with, and I wanted to get involved earlier," Ginsburg said.
So he became a founding member of the I Have a Dream Foundation in Colorado, and he and his wife adopted an entire class of at-risk pupils in a Denver neighborhood where the average dropout rate was 90 percent. The Ginsburgs spent a decade supporting those students, and eventually 92 percent graduated from high school.
Then he shifted his attention from local to statewide — and beyond. Most recently he's become a global advocate for manufacturing apprenticeships.
Ginsburg started the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, and he also spearheaded an innovative apprenticeship program called CareerWise. Modeled after apprenticeships in Switzerland, the program links businesses, educators and high school students to give them on-the-job training.
"For Intertech, the apprentice program is a secret weapon against our competition," Ginsburg said.
"Noel took a look and said, 'We have to develop programs to bring young people into manufacturing,'" said Lowell Rosenthal, purchasing manager and one of the most senior employees at the company. "One of those, as we know today, is our apprenticeship program, which has been really successful. We have some young people who are very smart; we're in good hands in the next generation and on down the line."
One of the current apprentices, Thomas Hagen, is a high school student helping to automate work cells at Intertech.
"I never even thought that I would be doing what I'm doing at this age," Hagen said.
CareerWise Colorado is now in about 50 high schools, reaching school districts that cover about 70 percent of the state's population. Other states plan to set up identical programs, and Ginsburg's goal for CareerWise is to have 20,000 apprentices within a decade.