Valentino Simone started with $250 in his bank account and now has 123 employees.
In 1988, he founded Target Steel, which now operates three facilities in southeast Michigan — Flat Rock, Riverview and Detroit. Simone’s brother, Michael, joined the company shortly after its founding and now serves as vice president of the family-owned and -operated business.
Cheryl Shelton, human resources manager at Target Steel, said the family-oriented ethos is a driving force behind the company’s success.
“Even though we continue to grow, we try to keep it like a family here,” she said. “When a family has a problem, the owners want to know. They’ll send flowers. We recognize every employee’s birthday with a card. We do employee of the month. We do a lot of things to make sure employees know they’re appreciated.”
She said the company emphasizes careers over jobs and has never had a major layoff in its 30-plus years of existence.
“We have good employees who are putting their heart and soul into this work every single day,” she said. “And we’re investing in the Downriver area.”
Sometimes an afterthought in discussions of the Motor City’s success, the Downriver region has long been home to numerous auto industry suppliers and facilities.
“We see the dedication and hard work from Downriver every day when we pull out of the parking lot,” said Heather Malone, business development manager at Target Steel. “We’re on Vreeland Road, right down the street from the (Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant), and to see the amount of employees coming in and out of that building, the expansions that they’re dedicating to that facility … for us to be a part of that is awesome.
“For me, Downriver is the Motor City.”
Though Target Steel works with organizations in the construction and agriculture industries, Malone said the bulk of their work involves the Big Three automakers. She said it’s important for the company to stay on top of industry trends like lightweighting and electrification to meet its long-term goals.
“We want to be the No. 1 automotive service center in the Midwest,” she said. “That means being ready for electrification and mobility changes in the industry. We start hearing about the younger generation not wanting to own cars and have to look at what advances we can make technology-wise.”
Changes to components — different batteries and more aluminum, for example — are part of the equation, but there’s also a bigger picture.
“When you’ve got fewer people driving and less private ownership of vehicles, now you’ve got to figure out how things are going to change,” Malone said. “We have to stay cutting edge and make sure we’re sustainable and here for the long haul.”
Being in a community for the long haul isn’t just about what happens on the job, but also outside of it. To that end, human resources assistant Lindsay Wilcox said Target Steel makes a point of participating in local events.
“We have a social committee here at Target Steel,” she said. “We encourage people to get out of the building and spend time together.”
The company participated in Flat Rock’s trunk or treat festivities in October, adopted a local family for the holidays and donated funds to a dinner for area emergency responders.
Shelton said the company is growing, having recently completed an expansion of its Flat Rock headquarters, and wants to continue to do so.
“At the rate we’re growing, we’ll outgrow the new addition to the facility pretty soon,” she said.
Even as it continues to expand, Target Steel hopes to maintain its reputation as a family company, Malone said.
“When we get the dedication from ownership to know our jobs are secure (and) that we have good benefits and good pay, we’re willing to work 10 times harder,” she said. “It’s about taking care of the people.
“We’re not just numbers here, we’re people. I don’t think you get that at big, publicly-traded companies.”