Business spotlight – Northern Wings
Newberry, Mich. – David Goudreau grew up in St. Ignace, Michigan, where he graduated high school and enlisted in the United States Navy. He found the G.I. Bill presented a very attractive option to continue his post-secondary education. While at Laker Superior State University he enrolled in an Officer Candidate Program where he was later commissioned with the rank of Second Lieutenant. After serving in the Infantry, Goudreau then completed flight school and became a USMC Aviator for 15 years until retiring from the Marine Corps in 2001. This military experience was the catalyst solidifying his aspirations to continue a career in aviation.
Following his military service, Goudreau found a Sales role at Milwaukee-based aviation parts company, Tracer Corporation. The idea of starting his own business seemed like the next logical step to ensure a bright future for his family. “Do what you know,” says Goudreau. Through discussions with colleagues, Goudreau engaged with the idea of becoming a regional provider and economic influencer through entrepreneurship and expanded regional development efforts, setting a higher target for himself and the surrounding region. At that time in Michigan, the natural path for economic growth was in manufacturing, more specifically in the automobile industry. And the automobile epicenter was Detroit, Michigan.
But Goudreau went with what he knew. Northern Wings Repair, an FAA certified Repair Station, got its start in 2005, operating with two employees out of a pole barn in the middle of acres of farm land in Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula. Goudreau’s associates weren’t shy about their thoughts on starting a machine shop for aviation parts, rather than serve Michigan’s well-established automobile sector (and in the U.P. no less!). He had a vision and a plan, coupled with an apt adage to attract talent to the sparsely-populated region, “Why not work where you vacation?” became a Northern Wings mantra.
Goudreau continues to define his business’ success even today, as Northern Wings has grown into its current 21,000 sq. foot state-of-the-art production facility, employing more than 25 area residents, and becoming an AS9100 certified aerospace manufacturer and stocking distributor. “If success equates to ‘winning,’ what does that look like for you?” pondered Goudreau. In form and function, he sought to create not only a business, but a culture of highly skilled, highly trained individuals he could entrust to meet the rigorous demands of compliance in the aviation industry. His Northern Wings team had to become his ‘other’ family. With limited people resources in the rural U.P., Goudreau was well aware of his biggest challenge even before starting the business. Family became the nucleus of the business. “It’s impossible to separate family from the business,” explains Goudreau.
In 2010, Northern Wings was named the Michigan Employer of the Year, and has collected numerous other national, regional and state accolades over the years that celebrates their excellence in business. Goudreau doesn’t look at recruitment as simply hiring employees, but rather as almost adopting employees. Subscrbing to the idea of a workforce marketplace, Goudreau sees an employee contract as an opportunity to hold both parties accountable. The business enters the contract to hold the employee accountable to the agreed upon terms, while the employee also holds the business accountable to those very same terms. The model only works if employees and the business both buy in to the value each will receive from the contract. To create a winning business environment, Northern Wings leans heavily on continuously up-skilling and cross training through numerous professional development opportunities, taught by some of the industry’s best. On the job training empowers employees and grooms them to become teachers and champions in the continuous feedback loop that sets the tone for improvement and innovation at Northern Wings.
Staying agile and growing and developing in the areas most in need has allowed Northern Wings to thrive over the past 20 years. Even as the challenges associated with COVID-19 have made their mark in the form of huge losses in the manufacturing sector, Northern Wings has stayed lean and continues to offer employees the same competitive benefits they’ve come to rely on to support their families. Flexible polices have allowed Goudreau’s team to quickly implement the latest guidelines to ensure that cleaning and capacity concerns are addressed in order to keep operating as safely as possible. The goal was set to rapidly deploy solutions, and Northern Wings has been fortunate to be able to continue operations throughout it all. “Your motive for success has to be a positive one,” reiterates Goudreau. Through fiscally responsible practices, Northern Wings has been able to focus on “closing deals” and not the debts associated within operating a world-class manufacturing business. For clients, this means they won’t be able to tell Northern Wings from some of the larger corporate manufactures in quality and price, a win by any entrepreneur’s definition.
Sault Tribe Thrive is proud to share Dave’s story. Northern Wings sets a high bar for what homegrown local business can look like in the Sault Tribe’s rural 7 county service area. Goudreau likens the Sault Tribe Thrive initiative to the cavalry, bringing much needed economic aid to a region that has been in serious need for some time. He believes that support for small and medium sized businesses is the backbone of the U.P. economy, and it is these businesses together as a whole that can really shape how the U.P. region grows economically. Together through community and collaboration we can continue to improve economic development and business relations in the U.P. and beyond.
Northern Wings has grown to support nearly every segment of their clients’ supply chain. Their array of quality certified services includes a distribution division with stringent inspection criteria to eliminate any counterfeit parts threat, a certified build to print manufacturing capability to meet unique requirements, and unparalleled repair management capability with over a decade of experience completing and managing repairs. They are your small business total aerospace support solution. Visit Dave and the team at 6679 County Rd 392 Newberry, Michigan or find them online at https://northernwings.com/.