By Rhonda Bodfield –
2018 Father of the Year Honoree
Bill Assenmacher’s parents weren’t college educated or particularly affluent, yet they were determined to stamp his future with a wealth of experiences.
Raised in a small town in Michigan, the eldest boy of four children, Assenmacher was active in church, giving out turkeys at the holidays to those less fortunate and volunteering to teach catechism after school to disadvantaged youngsters.
Included among eight jobs he had through high school was managing a paper route and hawking newspapers on Sunday mornings. He pumped gas for one uncle and did landscaping for another.
Assenmacher was the kind of kid who would check out 20 books from the library and read every one within a week. He served as class president and played sports. He built sets for school plays and marveled during field trips to the Detroit automakers.
Some of those experiences pointed to a future calling – supported by aptitude tests showing a particular affinity for complicated mechanical work.
His library explorations turned to an interest in engineering which led him to enroll in the University of Arizona’s aerospace engineering program.
Through a cooperative education program in which students split their time between going to school and working in the field, Assenmacher traveled to New York, Germany and Miami in a management-training program for the airlines and worked on the railroads. He hired on with Bob Caid’s manufacturing firm while completing his UA studies.
Then, a crossroads: Procter & Gamble in Long Beach, California, extended an offer. Caid, who had no heir apparent, told Assenmacher that if he stayed, Caid would sell the business to him.
California beckoned, but Assenmacher already had a taste of big companies. “I saw that you could be a name and a number and not an individual,” he said, “and that you could get lost in the shuffle as one in 10,000. Here, I could control my destiny and help mold the company.”
Two months before he graduated, he bought Caid’s business, once known as CAID Industries and now simply CAID.
He’s had no regrets in the ensuing 45 years.
In that time, the company grew from $1 million in annual revenues with 30 employees to one that makes more than $50 million and employs 300.
“It wasn’t fate so much as taking advantage of the opportunities that came before me,” Assenmacher said. “My career evolved because of all of the exposure I had and because I was able to get my hands dirty and get involved in a number of things at a number of levels.”
It was something he felt strongly about passing along to his own children — Robert, who now runs CAID’s day-to-day operations, and Meghan, as well as to his five grandchildren, the eldest of whom studies astrophysics and has an upcoming internship at NASA.
Rob worked at CAID’s art department and in the machine shop during high school. He’d tag along on delivery trips to manufacturing plants across the state and around the world.
While Bill had a focus on growing the firm around the mining industry, Rob has built opportunities around complex manufacturing for defense and military applications. “It’s a different time and business overall is different, so I’ve taken a lot of pleasure in seeing the firm evolving,” Bill said.
The company encourages staff to get involved with local charities. One manager is drawn to the Red Cross, so the firm has regular blood drives. One is drawn to Habitat for Humanity, so the firm helps build houses.
“I think being brought up Catholic, you wonder why you’re here and you wonder if you’re on the right path,” Assenmacher said. “I’ve had a good life and a wonderful career, and it’s important to me to do my part to contribute to society.”
He is proud to support the work being done at Steele Children’s Research Center, particularly since his wife of 40 years, Molly, was stricken with a serious form of cancer. “Had it not been for medical research that had been done 15 years ago, she wouldn’t be alive today.
“My wife has been blessed to see four more grandchildren born after her cancer,” he said. “We benefitted because people before us put money and energy into research that would help extend lives through medical advancements, so I not only want to give back, but I want to inspire others as well. By helping make a difference in some young person’s life, it feels like we are completing that circle.”