Moving Forward:The Changing Dynamics of a Local Family Business

  • By chelseajaie
  • 09 Jan, 2015

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Life changed suddenly for the siblings in the Goggins family during the holidays of 2010. They experienced the ultimate heartbreak when they lost both of their parents exactly one week apart, due to terminal illnesses. And it was during this time that the siblings realized their individual aspirations were somewhat different from the path on which they currently found themselves.

Let’s back up a bit. For those of you who don’t know, NorthGate is a Goggins family-owned, Flint-based company, which was founded in 1984 by the patriarch of the Goggins family, Jack Goggins. Jack was the classic entrepreneur, cultivating many new ideas and founding several local businesses. But one venture took on a life of its own when the company’s major customer adopted Jack’s innovative idea for packaging automotive parts—and the name given to this program was the GumWrapper Packaging System, or later, and more affectionately, called Gummy Boxes.

This October, NorthGate celebrated two major milestones: its 30th anniversary and the major accomplishment of 100,000 on-time truckload deliveries of the Gummy Box. NorthGate invited community leaders, customers, vendors and all of its 220 employees to an evening celebration. The party invitation included an animated video telling the GumWrapper story. This video can now be found on the company website homepage at www.Go2NorthGate.com .

At the celebration, Andy Goggins, the youngest sibling and now owner of NorthGate, announced that he intended to make the momentous delivery scheduled for the following week. That proclamation concerned all the guests until Andy reminded them that his first role at the company was as a truck driver. So, on October 15th he did make the voyage with perfect execution.

The Goggins children grew up in Flint and Flushing and were immersed, to varying degrees, in the various business ventures of their father. Not every one of Jack’s ideas was successful, but in 1995, the GumWrapper business took shape, and the company was expanding. So, Jack began executing a long-term strategy for succession of the business to his six children, making them all partners of the company. “We were all active and familiar with the company even though only some of us had a full time role,” explains Terri (Goggins) Witt, the eldest daughter and current President of NorthGate. "I joined the business full-time in 2008, when my dad slowly started leaving more and more of the day-to-day decisions and tasks to us,” she adds. “At that time, not much thought had been given to the reality of what would happen when Dad was not part of the team.”

During this time, the business was operating under the name Security Packaging, but the company did so much more than just packaging, that it began to move forward with rebranding and refocusing of the business. "In 2011, we decided to change our name to NorthGate,” says Rick Valley, a brother-in-law and business development executive, "[in order] to describe our strategic location as the northern gateway of the manufacturing center of the Great Lakes Region. We were no longer exclusively a packaging services company; we had extensive expertise in order fulfillment, sorting, repackaging, kitting, inspection and warehousing.” And Terri goes on to explain that "as a company, we refocused on who we were and what makes us unique in the marketplace. We also worked to better describe our core values. We highlighted our belief in the importance of our employees to the ongoing success of the company and the significance of offering meaningful employment opportunities in our community.”

“It is important to me that everyone is treated with respect, just like they are part of our family,” Terri’s brother Andy adds. “I am proud of the relationship that we have built with our employees, our customers, our suppliers and our community.” And Terri continues in the same vein, saying, “I agree, we have the BEST employees in Genesee County. One of the main reasons I get up every morning is because I know I have over 200 families counting on us to make the right decisions for our company.”

NorthGate has grown to have over 500,000 square feet of value-added space in its three Flint facilities. They have grown through the years as a leading supplier to automotive companies in the Great Lakes region. Now NorthGate has positioned itself as a total solution provider in the areas of warehousing, packaging, processing and distribution services. "As an example of the type of partnership we provide our customers, we recently received a call from a Tier 1 automotive parts manufacturer looking for warehouse space,” Terrence Ethier, Business Development Director explains. “When we explored more fully their business issue, we realized we could do more than just provide warehousing for them—[in fact,] we were able to provide additional value-added services as well. This customer needed to focus on core business, and we are able to help manage the logistics aspects of the operation.”

Here is how it works: NorthGate sends empty racks to this manufacturer, daily, to match the shift production needs; the racks are then loaded with parts and sent along the supply chain, and eventually to an automotive assembly plant for installation in a new car. Next, the now-empty racks are sent back to NorthGate to be inventoried, cleaned, sequenced (based on the customer’s specifications), warehoused, and then, to complete the circle, shipped back to the customer. The company also provides other warehousing and inventory management services for this manufacturer. It has become a successful partnership.

In late 2012, it became clear that the best thing for the company would be to have a single direction moving forward. So, as a family, the Goggins decided that the sibling with the most extensive company background and the responsibility for key business relationships should direct the future of the company – and Andy became the owner of NorthGate. “We don’t know what the future may hold for us, but we expect our continued growth to support enhanced career opportunities for employees and managers who share our vision for the company,” Andy says, adding that “We will remain an independent, family-owned, Flint-based company [that is] dedicated to hard work, innovative and cost-effective businesses solutions [as well as] outstanding customer service.”

NorthGate provides warehousing, packaging, processing and distribution services. It is strategically located in Flint, Michigan, the “Northern Gateway” and ideal location to process materials being shipped into or out of the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada.

For additional information, please visit www.Go2NorthGate.com .

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