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Donor Profile: Frank Foti

frank-foti-jpg-750xx1333-1777-0-0We are pleased to showcase Frank Foti, an accomplished alumnus and entrepreneur who has contributed significantly to AIESEC in his youth and remains an active alumnus and supporter to this date.

Mr. Foti is also a proud donor to The AAI Seed Fund 10 X €10K Campaign, demonstrating his generosity and commitment to The AAI Transformation Project.

Frank joined AIESEC at the Miami University in Ohio while doing a B.S. in Business with a double concentration in economics and marketing. He went on to serve as president of AIESEC United States in 1980-81.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he spent summers working for his father’s small construction company. To build character, ensure harmony, and quash concerns of nepotism, his father encouraged workers to assign young Frank the hardest, dirtiest, and most humbling jobs available. Not surprisingly, Frank decided to leave the Midwest, and manual labor, behind.

After college, he headed west and entered a nice, clean office career in telecom, working with cable TV providers in Oregon. Frank was well into his climb on the corporate ladder when news from back home changed the course of his future: His father’s health was failing. His final request was that Frank return home to take over the family business.

Reluctantly, Frank left his budding telecom career to return to the town and the blue-collar work he had left behind. However, the construction business looked a lot different in light of Frank’s recent experience in the corporate world. Rather than the petty office politics and self-dealing of the telecom world, he found a group of talented artisans, authentically cooperating to build useful things for regular people. The workers spoke honestly, cared for one another, and used their talents to ensure the job was done right. He quickly understood what he’d gotten wrong about industrial work and industrial workers, and he knew his future was in building real things with authentic people.

Over the next few years, he grew the company’s revenues by 260 percent and ensured that it could provide his workers with stable employment over the long term. In 1994, Frank sold the improved company and returned to Oregon, a place he’d grown to love during his time there. His only plan was to buy an industrial business and create jobs for skilled workers.

When he arrived at the gates of the Portland shipyard, Frank found the same caliber of artisans who changed his life in Ohio, and he immediately felt the potential for growth. With zero marine experience, Frank bought the company, assumed nearly $40 million in company debt, and learned how to run a shipyard.

Over the next 20 years, Frank Foti led Vigor Industrial’s transformation from a single, struggling shipyard to a thriving industrial company, with 2,000 employees, seven locations, and more than $500 million in annual revenue.

Under his helm, Frank developed a strong people-focused leadership style. He speaks openly and expects the same from workers at all levels within Vigor. And, he strives to create a company that is defined not by rules and processes but by the values and characters of the people who work there.

When he’s not wearing his hot-pink, hard hat and talking to shipyard workers about love, he’s usually planning new business expansions or spending quality time with his wife, two kids, and three dogs.

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