If there’s the perfect example of an all-around manufacturing Renaissance man, Transwestern principal Ed Brandt is in the running.
Brandt started as one of the Technology & Manufacturing Association’s (TMA) early apprenticeship trainees, worked as a tool & die maker, started his own manufacturing business and eventually retired, only to launch a brand new career a year later.
These days, Brandt is heavily involved in industrial real estate. For the past 13 years, he has worked with Chicago area manufacturers to help them find perfect locations for their companies, their employees and their companies’ needs.
Brandt was instrumental in helping TMA find their newest location in Schaumburg two years ago – a place that would provide needed space for training the next generation of Chicago area machine operators, tool and die, as well as mold makers, along with crucial office space and meeting facilities.
“Every time I walk through this building on Wilkening, it makes me feel good,” Brandt told TMA’s News Bulletin. “I am proud I had part in picking it out.”
But Brandt’s part in locating TMA’s new facilities is just his most recent contribution to TMA. He served on TMA’s Board of Directors for several years and in 1982, the board elected him its chairman. By then, Brandt had been active in TMA as a business owner for 17 years.
“In 1965, a partner and I started Majestic Engineering. I joined TMA right after that. Then I joined the board in 1977,” Brandt said. “Ever since I joined TMA, I’ve stayed active, because our whole future depends on manufacturing.”
As a new business owner, Brandt found at TMA crucial personal networking – something he says is still important today, despite the impact of the Internet.
“All the time I networked at every function at TMA I possibly could, and still do to this day,” Brandt said. “At every event I meet someone I didn’t know before, and I always learn something new.”
When Brandt served as TMA chairman, his focus was to advance apprenticeship training. That year, Triton College and TMA locked arms – the organization’s first post-high school training collaboration.
During his chairman acceptance address that year, Brandt acknowledged that his interest in promoting apprenticeships was directly connected to his personal experience with TMA training.
“I am sure that this interest [in apprenticeship training] started on that day back in 1958 when I became an apprentice tool & die maker and enrolled in the Related Theory program. In retrospect, those were some of the toughest, but most enjoyable days of my life,” Brandt told his colleagues.
“Little did I suspect at that time that my apprenticeship would one day become the foundation for allowing me to become a plant owner and the [chairman] of the finest trade association in America.”
After high school and a year in college, Brandt served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked for Diemaster six years before launching Majestic Engineering with two partners – one that owned Diemaster.
Majestic Engineering did well, and eventually grew to have 47 employees, many of which Brandt himself trained. In 2001, Brandt sold the company with all intentions of relaxing.
“I was retired for a year, and had always liked real estate as a second career,” Brandt said. It wasn’t long before he decided to obtain his real estate license and determine what type of real estate he would sell.
“I decided I would sell factories because I knew them better than anything else,” Brandt said.
With decades of experience in manufacturing, Brandt says he’s found himself not only selling real estate, but in the process, helping clients make decisions about their own businesses.
“Over the years, I bought three other businesses and learned the hard way that you’ve got to be careful,” he said. “You don’t want to overextend. At times, I did the right thing at the wrong time.”
“Getting too deep in debt isn’t good. My thinking is ‘Don’t overextend yourself. Ask yourself if you really need more room. Move if you have to.’ I don’t like to see anyone go out of business from overextending,” he said.
That business experience and knowledge has not only been beneficial to his clients, but to his own venture, Brandt said. As a result, Transwestern set real estate transaction records in the midst of tough times for manufacturing.
All the while, Brandt continues to stay active in TMA. He was recognized in 2014 for his commitment to the organization with TMA’s prestigious John Winzeler Award.
He says he especially enjoys catching up with longtime friends that also served as TMA chairmen over the years.
“As a TMA chairman, you’re part of an elite group. Just like being a part of the U.S. Marines – I’ve always been very proud of being a part. ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine,’” he said. “For me, it’s ‘Once a TMA member, always a TMA member.’”
The dictionary says a “Renaissance man” is one that is outstandingly versatile, well-rounded and performs brilliantly in many different fields. Brandt, who started in manufacturing as a TMA apprentice, went on to start a successful manufacturing business, and eventually led in selling industrial real estate, fits that description well.
He can be reached at Transwestern at Edward.Brandt@Transwestern.com .
First published in TMA’s January 2017 News Bulletin By Fran Eaton.