Serving Bay, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland, & Saginaw Counties

Collaboration Pays Off!

Collaboration Pays Off!

Bill’s Custom Fab, Inc. of Mt. Pleasant submitted an STTF grant application last fall but was denied due to the competitive nature of the grant process. Undeterred, the company continued to work with Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works! and submitted another form of grant application to secure funding for much-needed training – an Industry Led Collaborative (ILC) – teaming up with Ithaca-based Burford Plumbing & Heating.

The two companies are the first to be awarded an ILC grant in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

To remain competitive, both Bill’s Custom Fab and Burford Plumbing & Heating need their employees to be more proficient in shop math and blueprint reading. For Bill’s Custom Fab, volatile steel prices make accuracy critical. Because of the high cost of inventory and raw materials, small companies like Bill’s cannot afford to generate waste. “Their business must be as efficient as possible,” says Rod Reid, the Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works! business services team (BST) representative who provided both companies with assistance in writing the grant.

For Burford, shop math and blueprint reading are equally critical for minimizing mistakes and reducing added trips to job sites. “These two skills are difficult to teach on the job,” Rod explains. “The training paid for by the ILC grant will help Burford better equip employees and help them to be more valuable, completing jobs in less time while maintaining accuracy. This will allow the company to increase their contracts and expand their market share.”

Bill’s Custom is a full service steel fabrication shop. It is a small business with just under 30 employees that specializes in custom fabrication as well as fabrication and erection of structural steel, platforms, stairs, handrails and gates. It is a family-owned business, operating since 1991. The ILC grant will help the company train four existing employees in shop math and blueprint reading through Mid Michigan Community College.

Burford Heating & Plumbing specializes in heating, air conditioning, radiant heat/boilers, and geothermal applications in both residential and commercial markets. The company is responsible for the heating/cooling/plumbing systems in many businesses throughout the region, including several large accounts. Burford is training four existing employees and hiring one new to participate in the training at Mid Michigan Community College.

If your company applied for an STTF grant and was denied, please contact your BST representative to inquire more about ILC grant applications. Or for more information, contact Amy Ames at

Photo: BST rep Rod Reid helped Bill’s Custom Fab and Burford Heating & Plumbing secure an Industry Led Collaborative grant to train employees in shop math and blueprint reading.

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