AMBA Presents Three Distinguished Awards in Michigan

By Lindsey Munson, editor, The American Mold Builder

Roger Fox Named 2024 AMBA Mold Builder of the Year

“I want to thank everyone at Accede – we won this together!” said Roger Fox, president, Accede Mold & Tool, Co, Inc.

The AMBA Mold Builder of the Year Award, sponsored by Progressive Components, was created to recognize outstanding contributions as an industry leader and active AMBA member. Justin McPhee, Mold Craft, Inc., a Westfall Technik Company, and 2023 recipient of this award, presented the 2024 AMBA Mold Builder of the Year Award to Roger Fox, Accede Mold & Tool, and it was received on his behalf by his son, Mitchell Fox, at the AMBA Conference in March. As Mitchell Fox took to the podium to accept the award, he shared words written by his dad: “It’s not hard to succeed when surrounded by great people, like Camille Sackett who submitted this nomination.”

From left to right, Tom Barr of TK Mold & Engineering, Roger Fox of Accede Mold & Tool and Glenn Starkey of Progressive Components.

A few weeks before the conference, Tom Barr of TK Mold & Engineering, Inc. and Glenn Starkey of Progressive Components surprised Roger Fox at the Accede Mold & Tool facility in Rochester, New York, to present the award to him in person. Fox said, “I would like to thank AMBA for this prestigious award and express my regret for not being able to attend and receive it in person, and I would like to thank Tom Barr and Glenn Starkey, again, for making the trip to Accede and making it a truly memorable surprise … We will forever display this award with pride.” Gathering together, the Accede family was there to celebrate Fox’s 2024 AMBA Mold Builder of the Year Award, and it was recorded for attendees to see at the AMBA Conference awards ceremony.

“Mold Building Excellence”

New York-based Accede Mold & Tool is a global leader that specializes in complex and precision state-of-the-art moldmaking for the plastics injection molding industry. Under the leadership of Fox, Accede Mold & Tool has built a respected brand within the plastics industry for more than 40 years. But before a successful track record and decades in the industry, there was a younger, 21-year-old version of Fox and humble beginnings – starting his career in mold building under the guidance of his father. Within a few years, the company moved out of the suburban 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse and into its present location in 1987. With a mechanical curiosity and a fascination with manufacturing processes, Fox progressed from moldmaker to shop supervisor to vice president of manufacturing to general manager and finally, in 2012, to president and owner, during which he purchased the business from his father.

As written on the award submission by Sackett, “He’ll take the time to give everyone else praise and recognition and give us everything we need to be set up for success … There are many easier ways to make money than owning a mold shop. But after being a family man, being an American moldmaker is Roger’s life’s work.”

Under his leadership and mission of “Mold Building Excellence,” the company built its first two-shot mold in 1991, added a mold sampling lab in 1997, certified its Quality Management System in 1998, delivered its first turn-key systems in 2003, added the third-generation workforce in 2007 and built its first SpinStack cube mold in 2010. In 2015, it added a second facility known as the Systems Integration Center, which is used for turn-key and full systems integration around its plastic injection molds. Today, the company’s Quality Management System has been upgraded to meet ISO 9001:2015.

The Building Blocks of Tomorrow

Accede Mold & Tool is continuing to nourish and create the building blocks that will support and develop the next generation of moldmakers, whether through internal apprenticeship programs, manufacturing day events, high school career fairs, robotics programs, technical trade colleges and more.

For Fox, inside and outside of the organization, mentorship is an integral part of developing and bringing the next generation into mold manufacturing. The company’s internal training program for moldmakers and machinists is designed not only to educate but to expose apprentices to various manufacturing equipment, processes and related activities used to manufacture custom injection molds. Externally, Accede Mold & Tool is committed to giving back to the community and the industry – investing time, resources and capital in local and global causes, including partnering with local high schools and technical colleges to promote the value of mold manufacturing, donating equipment to the local school district and sponsoring and volunteering in the FIRST® Lego® League global robotics program.

In concert with those efforts and striving to grow tomorrow’s next generation, Fox stated he plans to use the $5,000 scholarship money, given on behalf of Progressive Components, by investing it back into Edison Career and Technical High School with plans to reach as many young adults interested as possible in the mold manufacturing industry.

A quote by William Pollard, a physicist, can be found on Accede Mold & Tool’s website: “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” McPhee said, “Pollard’s quote perfectly sums up the mindset of Roger Fox. Always learning … always teaching, forever innovating.”

More information:


United Tool and Mold Named 2024 AMBA Tooling Trailblazer of the Year

“It was exciting – Patrick and I were surprised, then had a ‘proud’ feeling for our entire team back home! We have put a lot of effort into being a part of local schools and creating opportunities for students to be involved in this industry, and it was nice to be recognized for that,” said Chad LaMance, COO for United Tool and Mold (UTM), Inc. Lemance was onsite at the AMBA Conference in March to receive the Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award.

From left to right, Chad LaMance and Patrick Brisson

The AMBA Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award, sponsored by Progressive Components, was established to recognize the accomplishments of an AMBA member company that have resulted in a notable impact in the area of education. This year’s award recipient is a company working hard to change the narrative of manufacturing in its region – shining a light on mold manufacturing and the available opportunities. Congratulations to United Tool and Mold, the 2024 AMBA Tooling Trailblazer of the Year.

“It means a lot to us to be awarded this through AMBA because there are a ton of great member companies who also do a lot to support education. United Tool is honored to be the one selected for the work done to create opportunities for students to get into this industry,” said LaMance.

For UTM, it is a small sign that its efforts in growing the industry are going in the right direction, continuing to push the company down the path of supporting and uniting the next generation in awareness, education and training.

Uniting Together

United Tool and Mold is located in Liberty, South Carolina, and is a provider of engineering changes and repair services for the plastic injection, blow molding and die cast industries. Established in 1995, it was founded on the principle of “Keeping the Plastics Industry Running” and operates as a one-stop shop for all mold-servicing needs.

For more than 28 years, UTM has prioritized introducing high school and college students to the industry, but equally emphasized to its employees the importance of their active involvement in the careers of young adults. Employees are encouraged to support the various programs at the schools, be a part of facility tours, serve on advisory boards, and participate in career showcases, mentorship and more.

LaMance said, “In the last year, UTM has continued to make educational outreach an important part of its success through involvement with the local school system, including volunteering on advisory boards at the high school and technical college level, hosting over 100 high school students for shop tours and participating in a business showcase that allowed over 5,000 eighth grade students in the region to learn about the trade.”

UTM is striving to be a complete package by sharing, educating and developing the future of the industry, and being a sponsor and investing back into the local high schools is a huge part of taking students full circle.

The company sponsors several high school awards that celebrate excellence and accomplishments, such as the Most Improved Senior (at five local high schools) and The Scholar Technician. The Scholar Technician Award recognizes a technical high school student who excels at solving problems with her/his mind and hands, and is enrolled in one of the STEM programs at the Pickens County Career and Technology Center. With this award comes a monetary component that helps award winners purchase tools when they join the workforce or pay for tuition to further their education.

“We are very proud to have a younger workforce and to be able to see the individual and team growth as we move along. Seeing the transitions and helping develop young leaders and moldmakers are things the company values as very important for the future growth of the industry.

We are committed to every age bracket at UTM, and a key focus is continuing to help educate our young team in technical and soft skills – all with the end goal of growing the NextGen workforce,” said Patrick Brisson, project manager at UTM, who also was in attendance at the Conference to accept the award.

A Continuous Investment

“Providing hands-on opportunities for high school students is a great educational tool,” said LaMance, “and to that end, last year the company hired four rising junior high school students as interns to learn about the business and gain some trade experience.” UTM also has a registered apprenticeship program, and currently, three young men are enrolled who started the program in high school.

UTM knows that the future of its company and mold manufacturing is a continuous investment into the next generation, with plans to stay the course by offering full support back to local schools through sponsorships, internships, apprenticeships and more.

LaMance said, “Educational outreach has been and continues to be a very important part of our business. Almost 30% of the company’s 70 employees went through the Career and Technology Center as a part of their high school education. UTM started in 1995, and I was one of four students in the first class to co-op with UTM and the Center in 1996. I didn’t know what a mold was, much less any mold manufacturers at that time. I know firsthand that I wouldn’t be where I am today without UTM putting a priority on educational outreach 28 years ago.”

Whether a high school or college student or young mold builder who’s entering the industry, Brisson shared a key piece of advice: “You can learn a lot quick, but quickly learn how much you still have to learn… and always strive to be a better you.”

As for the $5,000 scholarship given on behalf of Progressive Components, UTM plans to use this monetary award by investing it back into Pickens County Career and Technology Center for use in several STEM classes. Twenty-eight years and going strong, it is UTM’s privilege to be a part of building the foundation and continued growth of the Center.

More information:


Nick VanderZwaag Named 2024 AMBA Emerging Leaders Rising Star

In its inaugural year and presented at the 2024 AMBA Conference in March, the AMBA Emerging Leaders Rising Star Award is intended to recognize outstanding growth, leadership and/or contributions by an emerging professional in the AMBA community and a part of the US mold manufacturing industry. Based on recommendations provided by the AMBA Emerging Leaders Advisory Board, nominees for this award should exemplify one or more of the characteristics outlined, including integrity and accountability, adaptability and agility, leadership and initiative, collaboration and empathy, and dedication and a desire for growth.

From left to right, Tyler VanRee, Nick VanderZwaag, Trent Vandentop and Tom VanRee

This year’s first AMBA Emerging Leaders Rising Star Award was proudly presented to Nick VanderZwaag of Legacy Precision Molds, Inc., for the integrity displayed in his work, the willingness to try and learn new things, the ability to connect well with teammates, the proactive follow-through with projects and the continual desire to increase responsibility.

When asked what first came to mind when he heard his name at AMBA’s award ceremony, VanderZwaag said, “I was completely surprised! I had no idea I was even nominated until the big screen showed the list of nominees – and there was my name. I then internally experienced a mix of emotions since I am so new to the industry and, of course, gratitude for having received such a huge honor.”

In 2019, VanderZwaag was hired by Legacy Precision Molds, Inc., Grandville, Michigan, a full-service plastic injection mold builder, as general labor with minimal manufacturing experience but showed an interest in the opportunity to learn. In his first year at the company, VanderZwaag quickly jumped in cleaning the facility, performing maintenance, driving and cleaning trucks and helping in various light manufacturing projects. Tyler VanRee, president of Legacy Precision Molds and AMBA’s board president said, “There wasn’t anything he was asked to do that he wouldn’t be up for trying and learning. His willingness to learn or try something new and the humility he shows throughout that learning is highly commendable.”

Within the first year, VanderZwaag rose to the challenge of added responsibilities, including purchasing, outsourcing and managing vendor relationships – and he met those tasks with an initiative to listen, learn and develop, gaining confidence along the way.

Then, in his second year, he was instrumental in spearheading the initial certification of Legacy Precision Molds’ first Quality Management System, ISO 9001. VanderZwaag continued leading and collaborating with team members on those efforts, which ensured that metrics were well tracked so that customers received top-notch quality parts and on-time delivery. More recently, VanderZwaag took on a leadership role in a project to develop a new custom database solution for the shop floor. “I’ve had the privilege to be a part of the design and development of this unique system environment,” said VanderZwaag, “I’m really proud of how the overall system turned out. Legacy Precision hopes to see significant improvements in its ability to job cost, analyze data, report and adapt to changing market conditions.” His attention to detail and persistence in tackling this challenging project has not gone unnoticed by the Legacy Precision team as this database solution launched in April 2024.

VanderZwaag consistently has shown through his professional roles and responsibilities that he is dedicated to driving the mold manufacturing industry forward – but it doesn’t stop there. He was tasked with assuming a critical position of overseeing the CNC and moldmaker apprenticeships within the company. Taking this program head-on, he modernized it to reflect the needs and direction of today’s mold industry. And if that lineup of responsibilities isn’t enough, VanderZwaag is pursuing an MBA with a focus on data analytics, regularly attends AMBA online events and its annual conference and participates in the West Michigan Chapter fundraising events.

When asked how AMBA has supported him as an emerging leader, VanderZwaag said, “AMBA has been an incredible resource for me as I’ve been learning the industry. First off, though, a big thank you to Tyler and Tom at Legacy Precision for giving me many opportunities to use AMBA’s resources. I’ve greatly benefited from the AMBA conferences and emerging-leader pre-conference sessions.”

He continued, “The sports world reality that ‘you get better when you play someone better than you’ also applies to business. Being saturated with the wisdom, experience and best practices of others in the mold building industry has made me a better person and employee. I hope to be able to return the favor to a certain degree throughout my career.”

Outside of his hard work, dedication and passion for his professional life, VanderZwaag hit a big personal accomplishment this year, sharing, “I completed my first sprint triathlon last summer. The swimming portion was one of the most challenging things I have done in my life, but it was a cool achievement to do with five of my Legacy Precision coworkers.”

VanRee completed the AMBA award submission on VanderZwaag, where he perfectly stated, “The integrity he displays in his work, his willingness to try and learn new things, his ability to connect well with his teammates, the way he is proactive and sees projects through to completion … are all characteristics that he displays with a high level of excellence.”

By receiving the Emerging Leaders Rising Star Award, VanderZwaag was given a financial contribution of $500 on behalf of the award sponsors Gesswein and Mastip, Inc. to be used toward his professional development. VanderZwaag shared, “This contribution has been applied to my student account at Davenport University where I’m currently working toward my MBA and is very much appreciated.”

In closing, VanderZwaag proudly said, “Aside from this award being an incredible honor, it also confirmed to me that the work I’ve been doing the last few years has been valuable and impactful. Finding meaning in work is so important, and one way I have experienced that is realizing how my work impacts Legacy Precision Molds and the industry. Both Tom and Tyler VanRee always have been exceptional at giving recognition when deserved to all at Legacy. This award reiterated how amazing the American mold building world is and has inspired me to be more willing to take on discomfort when called on to lead in various areas of my life.”

More information: