By Richard L. Williams
Geoff Foster never set out to become an entrepreneur. He was happy and content for the opportunity to use his applied engineering technology training obtained at North Carolina A&T State University at major corporations like AMP, Nortel, Corning and Syngenta.
Then something happened; something profound that opened his eyes and changed his perspective on life in corporate America.
Foster’s work at AMP in 1999 was to design parts for auto manufacturer Ford, one of the company’s largest clients. At one point Foster was asked a fix a glitch – a problem he says he worked on for more than a week. When he was done, his engineering of a seal for electric connectors was so unprecedented that it resulted in U.S. Patent 6,024,591 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for Geoffrey Emerson Foster.
Since then, Foster says, Ford has used his invention in more than 31 million Ford, Lincoln, Jaguar and Mercury automobile models, further enriching the corporate behemoth.
“I received a $99 plaque and Ford paid my company $31 million,” Foster says. “I said never again. The next time I come up with a good idea it will benefit me and not my employer.”
Foster says he knew he had the talent to go into business for himself, but was gripped by the device that holds back so many would-be entrepreneurs – a fear of failure.
“I stayed in corporate American seven more years,” he says. “I knew I was ready … when I saw others who weren’t as talented as myself doing it. I just said if they can do it, I know I can do it.”
Today, Foster is president and chief executive officer of Greensboro–based Core Technology Molding Corp., a multimillion dollar international enterprise that provides injection molding, engineering, manufacturing, and plastics solutions to a number of Fortune 500 companies.
Among his current roster of clients are Altria, BMW Manufacturing, Electrolux, Ford, Freightliner, Husqvarna, Kenmore, Kenworth, KitchenAid, Maytag, Merck, Newell Rubbermaid, Volvo/Mack and Whirlpool. The company manufactures mouthpieces and sensors for electronic cigarettes for Altria (formerly Philip Morris) and makes accessory parts for Kontrol Freek, the provider of gaming components for PlayStation 4, Xbox1 and Nintendo.
Core Technology also makes coin holders, cup holders, and battery holders for BMW’s X3, X4 and X5 series and has been awarded contracts for the X6 and X7 models, which make their respective debuts in 2019 and 2020.
EXPANSION UNDER WAY
Last summer, Core Technology announced plans to expand its manufacturing operation. In an alliance with North Carolina A&T and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Core Technology will move into a $12–million, 70,000–square–foot facility at Gateway University Research Park in Greensboro.
Gateway is a partnership between North Carolina A&T and UNC Greensboro for research and economic development within the Triad. The universities’ mission is to develop state-of-the-art research facilities for cutting-edge work in the life and physical sciences, engineering, technology and other applied areas.
“Given the many options we evaluated for expanding Core Technology Molding, the opportunity to move our operation to the Gateway University Research Park and to further strengthen our existing partnership with North Carolina A&T State University was too valuable to pass up,” Foster says. “We’re extremely excited to be a part of this new facility and look forward to growing our company and building on the innovative culture of our organization.”
Gateway will build the unit with Core Technology as the anchor tenant. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in July. The estimated cost for the project is $11.7 million with Gateway contributing $10.5 million and the city of Greensboro contributing $1.2 million.
“This is a major endeavor for District 1 and East Greensboro as this project is the result of the city designating funds from the 2006 and 2016 bonds earmarked specifically for the enhancement of the east side of town,” Greensboro Councilwoman Sharon Hightower says.
“This is a unique opportunity to assist a fast-growing company with its expansion needs,” says John Merrill, Gateway’s executive director. “Core Technology manufactures many of the components inside items we use daily, from automobiles to lawn tractors to video games. We’re very excited to have Core Technology as a new partner and hope to use this relationship as a model for working with more local businesses.”
Core Technology has a certified Class 10,000 (ISO 7) and Class 1,000 (ISO 6) medical clean room and is a STEM-based advanced manufacturer. The company is one of the few minorities competing in the biological pharmaceutical and biomedical markets in the world.
Foster received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in industrial technology from North Carolina A&T and he holds an MBA from Wake Forest University. Prior to founding Core Technology in 2006, he held several engineering and product management positions at AMP, Tyco, and Corning Life Sciences, where he was responsible for an $80 million product line and 125 employees.
In 2007, Foster created Core Technology Molding Group, LLC as a joint venture and served as president and chief executive officer before he dissolved the company in 2012. In 2009, Core Technology was named Minority Supplier of the Year–Class I (vendors with less than $1 million in sales) at the Business Opportunity Conference in Charlotte by the Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council, where he has been a member of the organization’s board of directors since 2009.
In 2015, the company was named Minority Supplier of the Year–Class II (vendors with sales between $1 million and $10 million) at the CMSDC Business Opportunity Conference in Columbia, S.C. Foster also was named the Minority Small Business Man of the Year by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce in 2015. In 2016, he was invited to join the North Carolina A&T Board of Visitors, and Core Technology was recently featured in Diversity Plus magazine.
Paying It Forward
Foster, 50 and a native of Freehold, N.J., regularly hires students for internships and permanent employment from N.C. A&T, where he has served as an adjunct professor the past ten years in the Department of Applied Engineering Technology. Additionally, for the last two years, he has been a mentor for the Senior Internship Graduation project at N.C. A&T STEM Early College and he is the faculty advisor for the Society of Plastics Engineers at A&T.
The students visit Core Technology weekly, obtaining an understanding of the business. At the end of the project, they present a business plan providing recommendations for improvements to business and manufacturing processes.
Foster says the relocation of Core Technology to Gateway will enhance the classroom experience for students at his alma mater, which he says is close to adding a plastics engineering concentration to the Applied Engineering Technology discipline. The closest Plastics Engineering Technology program is at Penn State University.
Foster is committed to reaching back and paying it forward. The company is a Guilford County Schools STEM partner and students, teachers and parents frequently visit the business to learn about careers that are available through STEM.
He says the impact he is making as a small business owner far outweighs the challenges he faces competing in an industry where major corporations are not accustomed to African Americans entering boardrooms to make multimillion dollar presentations.
“There are 19,000 companies in the U.S. that are doing what we do,” Foster says. “But, there are only six minorities in the world doing what we’re doing.”
However, Foster says Core Technology is the only minority-owned company that has an ISO-6 certified medical grade clean room.
“My biggest challenge is getting potential customers to come here and see what we’re doing,” he adds. “Getting them to come here has not been easy. When they do come, they come with a closed mind but once they see our operation they’re blown away.”
‘we touch lives’
Foster, who has been married for twenty-five years to the former Tonya Oliver – a graduate of Winston-Salem State University – says he has no regrets about leaving corporate America and launching his enterprise.
“No regrets whatsoever,” he says. “I made a good salary in corporate America and was able to take care of my family. But we touch lives now. I have twenty-five employees and we work 24/7 and now I’m impacting lives – helping my employees support their families. I’m not tap-dancing trying to impress my boss and him taking credit for my work and giving me a little plaque.”
Foster says he looks forward to continually teaching and hiring college students and expanding his business once he relocates at Gateway. The Fosters have two college students themselves – Daphne, 22, a senior at Clemson University, and Jeremiah, 18, a freshman at Elon University.
On the horizon, he says, is one day starting a foundation aimed at his passion of helping young people become successful.
He says he also would like opportunities to possibly merge with or acquire other companies as well as develop business interests in South Africa, where he and his wife visited in October while touring the BMW South Africa manufacturing facility in Rosslyn, South African, which is near Johannesburg.