The Midwest earned the nickname “America’s Heartland” in part because of its crucial role in the nation’s manufacturing industry. So perhaps it’s no surprise that ACMA’s incoming chair of the board of directors, Fred Sanford, is the third association leader in a row to hail from the state of Ohio. He follows Scott Balogh, president and CEO of Mar-Bal Inc., and Kevin Barnett, now retired from Core Molding Technologies.

Sanford, vice president and general manager at Röchling Glastic Composites in Cleveland, isn’t a native Buckeye, however. That honor goes to the Boston area, though Sanford has lost much of the city’s distinctive accent. “When I graduated from Northeastern University, I went to work for GE Plastics. Two years in they sent me to Holland,” he says. “That had the effect of washing out much of my Boston accent.”

During his 35-plus year career in the polymer industry, Sanford has worked on three continents in locations ranging from Hong Kong and Tokyo to Atlanta and Pittsfield, Mass. “Fred has a long history in plastics and has broad work experiences,” says Barnett, who served as a member of ACMA’s Board of Directors alongside Sanford for four years. “He comes from a technical background and has served in business leadership roles in both the U.S. and internationally.”

Sanford’s vast experience makes him an ideal leader as ACMA prepares for the future under the guidance of new CEO Cindy Squires. They both began their respective roles with the association on July 1. (For more information on Squires, read the article on page XX.)

Wearing Many Professional Hats

Sanford’s passion for polymers began as a chemical engineering student at Northeastern during a co-op position with the U.S. Army Materials and Mechanics Research Center, where he worked on FRP ballistic protection for military vehicles. His second co-op assignment was with GE Plastics, the company that hired him upon graduation.

“The combination of getting fascinated about materials at that early stage of my engineering education, as well as the opportunity to work in a place like GE, drew me into the industry in the glory days of plastics,” says Sanford.

If there’s a theme song to his career, it’s “I Did It My Way” by Frank Sinatra. “I probably didn’t follow many of the rules or walk the expected career path for someone with my background,” he chuckles. “At my core I have always been a scientist, which is where I started after graduation, but I quickly realized I wasn’t satisfied simply doing research or development in a lab. I wanted to see things become real, so I made a point of making career changes into the commercial side.”