Angie Holt of Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing won a top award from the Indiana Manufacturers Association

Angie Holt, president and CEO of Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing in Auburn, is this year’s winner of the Indiana Manufacturers Association’s Manufacturing Excellence Award for an Emerging Leader.

Angie Holt learned some best business practices working more than 22 years in the commercial construction industry and scaled them to her family’s smaller manufacturing enterprise.

Holt started her transition into Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing in Auburn in 2018. She looked at cash flow, financial forecasting, investment, customer development and continuous improvement initiatives.

“Although we’re talking commercial construction vs. manufacturing,” Holt said, “those elements are still largely the same.”

In 2019, based on Holt’s assessment of Rathburn Tool’s potential, she became company president. That career change came the year before the COVID-19 pandemic created a public health crisis and wreaked havoc on the business world. Obstacles included labor and material shortages, supply chain delays, contraction in customer market, and increased price pressures.

Holt “faced many challenges that would have been daunting to a seasoned leader, yet she led the company through this difficult time with confidence and found innovative solutions to obstacles that presented themselves as a result of the pandemic,” said Charlene Hickey, communications director for the Indiana Manufacturers Association.

Holt’s success led to the association giving her its Manufacturing Excellence Award for an Emerging Leader. The award was presented last month at the group’s annual Manufacturers Hall of Fame Luncheon in Indianapolis.

“I’ve used my knowledge of how a larger corporation runs things,” said Holt, who worked as a financial manager and an operations manager in commercial construction.

“You just have to apply from a multibillion-dollar business with a B the elements that made sense to a family business,” Holt said. “I feel like I was made for it, and I’m having fun with it.”

The manufacturing association added the excellence awards in 2019 to “focus and honor companies and individuals in specific areas of achievement,” IMA President and CEO Brian Burton said in a statement.

“We congratulate Angie Holt for her outstanding work and continued dedication to making Indiana manufacturing a positive and driving force for the state,” Burton said.

Rathburn Tool submitted the nomination for Holt. The manufacturing association appoints a panel of judges to review award contenders. At least five nominations were received for the award Holt won, Hickey said.

Holt is the oldest member of Three Daughters Corp., which does business as Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing. She has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and a master’s in business administration.

One sister, Kami Mahony, is a chiropractor with Mahony-Rathburn Chiropractic, LLC; the other, April Winfield, is chief probation officer at the Allen County Juvenile Center.

“My father raised us as women to be independent,” Holt said, “… and make your own way in the world.”

Jerry Rathburn, father of the three daughters, is still engaged with the business. He serves on the board of directors of the business he founded and is often part of key discussions about the business with the daughters.

Rathburn Tool typically employs 25 to 30 people, Holt said.

Since taking the leadership, she has focused on diversifying and expanding the customer base, including with Fort Wayne clients. Rathburn Tool makes numerous products, including clutch components for the heavy-truck industry. Other products include fasteners and fire safety components.

Rathburn Tool has experienced 300% growth in its customer base since 2018, according to the state manufacturing association. It has obtained Women Business Enterprise and Women-Owned Small Business Certifications to open new doors of opportunity for Rathburn Tool.

On top of the state recognition she received, Holt said Rathburn Tool received a Business of the Year award Nov. 10 from the DeKalb Chamber Partnership.

Along with running a business, Holt is active in the community.

The company has implemented a program to develop manufacturing talent, which includes collaboration with local middle and high schools on programs to introduce students to manufacturing trades robotics and CNC machining.

Holt, who serves on the board of directors for the manufacturing association, is a board member, Executive Committee secretary and treasurer for Community Foundation (DeKalb County). She serves as Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools manufacturing program adviser, supports Hearten House women’s shelter and advocates for giving to a local Veteran Endowment Fund Jerry Rathburn established at the Community Foundation.

But the business improvements at Rathburn Tool were still at the heart of the manufacturing association award.

“Angie implemented many improvements when she became its leader in 2019,” Hickey said through email. “She improved Rathburn’s financial controls, purchased new equipment and implemented new technologies to improve production and better serve customer needs.

“Additionally, Angie led Rathburn in rebranding and reconfiguring its marketing strategy,” Hickey said. “We also found it impressive that Angie led the company so skillfully through the pandemic, despite the fact that she had just taken over the leadership role in 2019.”

Managing Editor

Managing Editor Lisa Green has more than 35 years of experience at newspapers in Illinois and Indiana. She has worked at The Journal Gazette since 2000, initially as business editor. She has a biweekly leadership column/blog called "Lead On."