Newsmaker: Greensboro-based entrepreneur turns COVID challenges into profits, essential products

Newsmakers

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Geoff Foster’s an expert in many things.

But what’s probably his most important level of expertise is hard to put into words. I think I’ll go the simple route and call him a “challenge-buster.”

Yeah, I know that’s something you don’t list alongside things like an entrepreneur, engineer, professor, and successful business owner/executive.

He’s all those things and more. But there’s a common thread that runs through all of them. It’s his unique ability to meet challenges and disappointments and turn them into advantages.

For instance, do you drive a Ford? Well, you can thank Foster for its ability to run smoothly in the rain.

Back in the late 1990s, Ford had a problem with its Excursion SUVs. Their central control units (basically circuit boards through which every electrical component—from the AC to the power windows-runs) weren’t resistant to water and were shorting out. Drivers were being left stranded.

“It wasn’t just the Excursion,” Foster told me recently. “It was the Explorer, the Expedition, the Escort— all of these were having this leakage problem.” Ford turned to the electrical connector manufacturer AMP Incorporated (which no longer exists after being bought and absorbed into several different companies since) to solve the problem.

AMP turned to its product manager at its plant in Greensboro, North Carolina to research a solution. He ended up inventing a gasket that kept water off the central control units.

This inventor was Geoff Foster. And the U.S. patent certificate still hangs in his office. “So that was definitely one of those defining moments in my career and actually my life,” Foster said.

Challenge busted!

Now hold onto that thought because I’ll come back to it in a few minutes.

Foster grew up in New Jersey. He came to Greensboro to attend the engineering school at North Carolina A&T State University. In addition to playing strong safety on the football team that won the 1986 MEAC Championship, he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree there. (He also has an MBA from Wake Forest.)

Today he runs a company he founded.

Core Technology Molding Corporation occupies about half of a large building in the Gateway University Research Park in east Greensboro, employs about 40 people and has an aggressive growth plan that includes adding more workers and space to its facility.

The company takes small plastic pellets (about the size of the ammunition for BB guns), turns them into liquid by heating them to 450 degrees and shoots the liquid into molds. The liquid cools and turns back into a solid. Only this time the plastic’s in the form of many different products of all shapes and sizes.

You may use some of these products every day.

From the snack container you’ll use at lunch, to the lids on Pond’s Cold Cream jars to the gaming joysticks for Sony’s Playstation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox to the firewalls that separate the engine and passenger compartments in BMW cars — they all rolled off conveyor belts at Core Technology.

“We’re seeing triple-growth right now,” Foster said.

It’s safe to say, however, none of this would exist had it not been for that small gasket Foster invented for Ford… or maybe I should say AMP. You see, it’s not as enlightening as it sounds. The gasket made $31 million for AMP. Foster never got a penny of it. All he received was the patent certificate.

“But it motivated me, Neill,” he told me. “I say that because I said the next time I come up with an innovative idea, I want it to be for my company. So that really got me focused less on being a manager or a product designer (and) more on being an entrepreneur and a CEO.”

Challenge busted again!

Core Technology would become one of only about six minority-owned companies in the world doing this type of work.

But fast-forward to early 2020. The pandemic shut down some of Core Technology’s biggest customers or forced them to scale back (BMW included.) “So we had to move people from weekend shifts to days, and then we actually started making components for face shields,” he said.

The company would also assemble those components and ship about 800,000 completed face shields to healthcare providers, medical/dental schools and others on the COVID front lines.

Let’s call that a COVID challenge — busted. Foster calls it his proudest moment.

But it doesn’t stop there. Core Technology also ramped up the production of vaccine plunger rods. (Healthcare providers use their thumbs to push these rods in the plastic cylinders. The force, in turn, shoots the vaccine into the needles and into patients’ arms.)

When many of the leading plunger rod manufacturers diverted their production to handle the COVID vaccines, Foster saw an opportunity to continue to make rods for the already-existing vaccines like the flu, mumps, whooping cough, even shingles.

Yes, another challenge— busted!

And then the supply chain crisis erupted. “So it (the crisis) has actually increased our business,” Foster said. “Several of our overseas competitors closed during COVID. Some have not opened up again. So we were rewarded business because some of our competitors were not able to continue their business.”

Yep, you know what I’m tempted to write.

Foster’s work hasn’t gone unrecognized. In fact, he became one of Ernst & Young’s 2020 Southeast Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winners, one of 12 leaders of fast-growing companies recognized for—among other things—excelling in overcoming adversity.

Sounds like challenge-busting to me.

For more information on the Core Technology Molding Corporation, click here: https://www.coretechnologycorp.com

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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