Inside Ivy Tech: 80/20: A 100 percent success

This year marks the 25th anniversary of 80/20 Inc., a northeast Indiana modular framing supplier billed as “the Industrial Erector Set,” given the interchangeable nature of the company’s vast product line.



Its visionary founder, president, and CEO, Don Wood, named the enterprise in the spirit of Pareto’s Principle, a well-known business philosophy that promotes the idea that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.

His unconventional branding strategy for the venture has proven to be a fitting choice.

What started with three employees and a 2,000-square-foot space in the Fort Wayne Enterprise Center has expanded to nearly 440 employees—62 of them having attended Ivy Tech Community College—and a 300,000 square-foot facility in Columbia City, Ind. To date, worldwide sales for 80/20 Inc. reflect nearly $1 billion.

While Wood is perhaps more readily known as an accomplished businessman, he is also a community leader. His long-term relationship with Ivy Tech Northeast, for example, includes delivering the Commencement address in 2008; establishing the Don Wood 80/20 Foundation Endowed Scholarship in 2009; joining the College’s regional board of trustees in 2010; and receiving an honorary Associate of Science in College and Community Service in 2012.

To his credit, Wood knows that both business and civic successes are predicated on capable human capital. This explains his unyielding support for both personal and professional development,and why he’s a proud advocate for Ivy Tech and its mission. When individuals prosper, communities prosper. And a solid education provides this foundation.

What is your first recollection of Ivy Tech, and how has that view broadened since your regional board appointment?

I graduated from a technical high school in Iowa and later served an apprenticeship as a tool and die maker. I remember discovering Ivy Tech long after relocating to Indiana and was excited to find an educational institution mirroring the program that originally attracted me to the technical field. Since becoming a regional board member, I’ve experienced the proactive approach Ivy Tech uses to recruit students—not only providing the tools but working to inspire interest in technical fields.

How has Ivy Tech impacted you personally and your business?

Ivy Tech has been a big inspiration to me, personally. It provides something familiar to my experiences, and I know it has programs that work. My son John has a degree in machine tool technology from Ivy Tech. From a business-owner perspective, the fact there was a technical school—now a comprehensive community college—in northeast Indiana made me confident there would also be continuation of a highly skilled workforce, which is becoming increasingly imperative in today’s manufacturing industry. We have also partnered with Ivy Tech from a curriculum standpoint, which has been beneficial to both 80/20 Inc. and Ivy Tech. It serves as a great example of what can be accomplished with these types of collaborative relationships.

How does support for Ivy Tech influence quality of life for all in northeast Indiana?

Northeast Indiana really has a lot of strategic and competitive advantages for businesses and industry. We need to build and improve on these strengths and assets to continue growth and keep companies and talent in the area. Ivy Tech provides the tools and training needed to retain a skilled workforce, and therefore jobs, in Indiana. Ivy Tech is a great opportunity for anyone. The number of students who graduate each year only adds to local business prosperity and the ability to employ great people.

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