James Hubbard
Image: Daniel Root


Take a walk on the factory floor in the foundry at Esco Corporation and you’ll notice that tenure is measured in decades. That’s because every worker’s hardhat bears a sticker that documents the number of years employed. Plant manager Paul Pope has put in 36 years. But even Pope’s a newbie to manufacturing manager Jerry Bailey, who first punched the clock at Esco in 1961.

And James Hubbard?

“I’m an infant in this company,” says the 22-year-old apprentice, who started in May 2006 as a “flogger,” breaking mining-scoop teeth freshly cast from steel (pictured behind him) from their molds with a pneumatic hammer.

“There’s a lot of room for me to grow, and that’s what brings me here every day.”

Hubbard, who started at $12.50 an hour, doesn’t understand the disdain he hears from former classmates who won’t even consider working industrial jobs. Not when he’s on the fast track to become a shop foreman, a position that fetches as much as $50,000 a year.

“I’m a lifer,” he boasts. “This is where I’ll stay until they tell me to get out of here.”

After all, he’s engaged, and he has to provide for Ethan, his 11-month-old son. Because who knows? In another 18 years Hubbard will be the old-timer, and his son might be the infant on the Esco floor.