Hibbing, Minnesota – In his 22 years working at L&M Radiator’s Hibbing facility, Painting Department Backup Supervisor and Lead Painter Chad Niemi has truly forged his own path, one that maintains the perfect equilibrium of his technical, leadership, and creative abilities.
Niemi began his time at the company as a welder, before expressing a desire to hold a position as a painter and assembler. Once Niemi transferred departments, he held the new position for two years before being promoted to lead painter.
“I have wanted to be a painter for my entire life, specifically I wanted to paint cars,” said Niemi, who builds and races cars with his daughter in his free time. “L&M has built a great environment here that makes our work experience better, cleaner, and more set up to make everything flow better.”
A consistent and impressive demonstration of his mentorship and communication abilities, along with a deep technical understanding of the job, led Niemi to his current position at L&M Radiator as Painting Department Backup Supervisor, Lead Painter, and on-site trainer for the department.
“My job is to mentor and guide the crew,” said Niemi. “One of our best painters just came to the job having never painted before. It is my job to create an environment where everyone can learn and thrive.”
Strong Work-Life Balance and Benefits Create Ideal Work Environment for a Family Man
Having started his career as a welder in Owatonna, Minnesota, and then building fitness equipment in Grand Rapids, Niemi describes the experience of starting at L&M Radiator as “making his way back home.”
“I worked at nine other places before L&M Radiator, and none of them have the employee benefits that this company offers,” said Niemi. “The company is extremely family oriented. They host holiday events and give gifts to our family and kids such as hosting a Christmas party, giving us Easter baskets and hams, Thanksgiving turkey, and candy buckets. They even have motorhomes that we can check out for one week out of the year, and we receive quarterly bonuses for our work.”
The fun advantages, supportive work environment, and ample growth opportunities have created a pattern where employees tend to stay at L&M Radiator for quite a long time, sometimes even for the length of their entire careers.
“The people you work with at L&M Radiator have been here for a long time,” said Niemi. “Some even longer than me.”
The sentiment among employees is that when you have a good thing going, why look elsewhere.
Racing to the Finish
Though Niemi did not find his start in the painting department, he has wanted to be a painter his whole life. He grew up watching his uncle paint cars, and Niemi dreamed of following in his footsteps. Now, Niemi spends his free time painting and building cars for his daughter, who competes in 100-lap enduro races on the weekends.
“I built cars with my buddy for five or six years for his enduro racing. So, when my daughter started racing last year, I started working on her cars as well,” said Niemi, who draws on his welding and painting skills for the repairs. “To build a race car together, we tear all the interior out and move the gas tank forward if it’s behind the axle. Then, we put bars on the windshield plates and on the doors and weld different bumpers on the vehicle for stability. We can do it all in a few days and start ripping.”
Enduro racing is fast-paced but certainly requires stamina. An enduro race (whose name stems from ‘endurance racing’) takes place on oval tracks and can span more than 100 laps. Being the auto-aficionado that he is, when Niemi isn’t racing cars or fixing them, he enjoys other motorsports. In the summer, he snowmobiles with his four children – an 18-year-old daughter, a 14-year-old son, 10-year-old twins – and his wife. In the winter, his family and friends drive ATVs and UTVs around Cass Lake in northern Minnesota.
Find Your Place at L&M Radiator
To those who are interested in joining the team at L&M Radiator, Niemi has some expert advice:
“We appreciate prior experience in industrial painting, but most importantly, we look for a candidate with a positive attitude,” said Niemi. “Even if you have zero experience, if you are willing to learn, we are willing to train you.”
To read more stories similar to Chad Niemi’s, visit The Mesabi Exchange.