Railroads are a failing industry. Everywhere you look around North America there are sidings with old and dysfunctional rail cars that have been sitting and accumulating rust for years. The number of trains on the rails has decreased, and several railroads that were alive 50 years ago are nothing but a name in the history books now. So why would anyone purchase a supplier to a failing industry? One man named Gregory James Aziz did just that, and his decision has him laughing all the way to the bank.
Gregory J. Aziz first got into the business world when he joined his family’s company, Affiliated Foods, in the early 1970s. He soon showed the world that he was a force to be reckoned with, and he turned Affiliated Foods from a domestic purveyor of foodstuffs into an international powerhouse in the industry. Gregory James Aziz made deals with exporters from South America and parts of Europe to bring in new and exotic offerings for his customers. With his skills in sales, he was able to find several new customers in the United States and Canada that would pay top dollar for Affiliated Foods’ premium products. He grew this company, and he was about to bring his expertise in this area of business to a new venture.
In 1994, Greg Aziz purchased a failing railcar manufacturer located in Hamilton, Ontario. National Steel Car had been around since 1912. Through that time, it had gone through several restructurings, name changes, acquisitions, and other changes that had left it stripped of cash and without any clear direction. Aziz was about to change all that.
Knowing that this company was able to attract top engineering talent, he focused on the engineering aspect of the industry. Aziz wanted to create lightweight, efficient, and safe freight cars for his customers. With several industrial accidents at the front of the mind in the early 1990s and 2000s, safety and regulatory compliance were at the top of the list for most customers.
Aziz also funneled cash into capital projects and new initiatives at the manufacturing facility. He grew the plant capacity by nearly 300 percent in only a few years and hired an additional 2,000 workers to handle the increased demand. Now, National Steel Car is one of the last railcar manufacturers still around. While other companies focused on cutting costs, Gregory James Aziz knew that creating quality railcars is what would bring the customers in, and he was right. Thanks to his leadership, National Steel Car has never been better, even though it is in a “failing” industry.
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