Tool King, Inc.
Manufacturer of the Year
Peter Hestad, owner of Tool King, Inc., was named the Wheeling-Prospect Heights Chamber of Commerce’s “Manufacturer of the Year” for 2018.
Hestad first located his metal service center business in Prospect Heights in 1980 and the moved to the current location in 1985. His 35 employees process coils of carbon steel, stainless steel, copper and aluminum-based alloys and change the widths or edge shapes to provide metals for fabrication to companies such as Black and Decker (so they can make jigsaws), Pella (for use in their windows) and nearby Keats Manufacturing (for various spring applications). They also export to manufacturers in Canada, Mexico, China, India and Costa Rica.
Unlike many manufacturing firms that run CNC machines, Tool King employees operate slitting lines and edging or skiving lines that allow them to slit and round edge metal of many types (including high carbon, pre-tempered and annealed alloys) into narrower strips and then transform the edges into custom shapes for different applications.
“Many of our competitors are also good customers of ours,” Hestad said. “We found that working together with our competition is mutually beneficial to everyone, including the end users.”
“The Manufacturer of the Year award from the Chamber was certainly a surprise to me,” Hestad said. “Wheeling has been very kind to us over the more than 30 years we have been here, so I am happy to be able to give back through my participation in the Chamber.”
Hestad is currently serving as chairman of the Industrial and Manufacturing Committee of the Chamber. He originally joined when few manufacturers were a part of the Chamber and the membership mostly consisted of restaurants and retail companies, so he left for a number of years. “We didn’t have much in common,” Hestad said.
But recently he returned at the urging of Neal Katz of Rand Manufacturing and Matt Eggemeyer of Keats Manufacturing who wanted to form an industrial group within the Chamber.
“And I have enjoyed it and found that membership has been beneficial. Wheeling is the fifth largest manufacturing community in Illinois, so I enjoy meeting regularly with other manufacturers and touring their facilities. It is cool to see how other companies contribute to the Wheeling community and attack many of the same challenges we face at Tool King,” Hestad said.
One of their biggest common challenges, he noted, was attracting entry-level workers. So the Chamber’s industrial group has been working with Wheeling High School to promote industrial careers, dispelling the image of factories with dirty environs and ugly smokestacks. Today, manufacturing in Wheeling is very high tech, Hestad said.
“During the work fairs which the high school sponsors we explain to them that they can have a lucrative and happy career in industry, complete with great health insurance and 401K plans. We have even suggested that our employees who have been renting for several years think about buying a nearby house. We have even gone to the bank with them to help with the process,” Hestad said.
“I am so happy that I joined the Chamber again. Those of us on the Industrial and Manufacturing Committee help each other by discussing best business practices, health insurance and other typical business issues that we all have. Networking with other manufacturers can only have a positive result for all of us,” he added.
“We love Wheeling. I always recommend and tout it to my friends. The close proximity to the Chicago Executive Airport, O’Hare Airport and the tollway system makes it easy to ship product and conduct business in Wheeling,” Hestad said. “Another big plus is the excellent choice of restaurants which makes entertaining visiting clients and vendors a very simple process. We don’t have to drive to Chicago to have a great culinary experience. It’s all here in Wheeling!”