Tina Haddad

President, R-H Industries Inc.
Tina Haddad

4:30 am, July 20, 2009

Welding, laser cutting, brass casting — Tina Haddad's company, R-H Industries of Cleveland, does it all.

To the surprise of some, in an industry where women owners are an obvious minority, Ms. Haddad has proven as tough as the men and metal she works with, and just as resilient.

“I used to answer the door and guys would ask me to see the foreman. I said, "You're lookin' at her,'” Ms. Haddad joked.

Why wouldn't a woman do well in the metal-forming industries, Ms. Haddad figured. After all, it affords her the opportunity to do one of her favorite things.

“I love to shop,” Ms. Haddad quipped on a tour of her 20-employee shop on Cleveland's near West Side. “Except I buy machines.”

And not wimpy machines, either, but big and expensive machine tools, such as the $250,000 computerized wire bending and cutting machine Ms. Haddad picked up in 2000, or the $40,000 laser cutting machine she bought in 2007.

Ms. Haddad estimates she has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years buying used machine tools that still have years, if not decades of life in them. She purchased a large metal lathe this year for $2,900 and now has it installed and working for less than the same machine would have fetched in a scrap yard last year.

She has toned down her spending a little bit, though. Up until 2001, Ms. Haddad was buying not only machines, but also entire companies. She began by buying out R-H from her family in 1999, proceeded to buy R&L Metal Spinning next door in 2000, and then in 2001 purchased National Brass Co., a brass casting company just down the street from her shop on West 33rd Street.

Why shouldn't she? Every time Ms. Haddad buys something, she seems to find more business for it. All the companies have increased sales, and all the machines have been busy since she purchased them.

“We're up about 10% so far this year,” she said. That's no small feat in an era when many other area metal shops have experienced huge declines in revenues, with some auto-related shops seeing sales drops of 50% or more.

Since she bought R-H Industries, its sales have gone from about $300,000 in 1999 to around $1.8 million in 2008.

“I'd buy a piece of equipment, people would hear about it, and we'd get work,” Ms. Haddad said.

For example, that wire-bending and cutting machine she bought makes wire that's welded together into cages that go around lights on highways, in factories and other places where folks don't want bulbs to be broken. Prior to that, the work was done by hand, but as soon as Ms. Haddad got the new machine, she also got work orders to keep it busy. Now, with federal infrastructure dollars aimed at projects that will require new lighting on roads, bridges and other projects, she thinks the machine might be even busier than she hoped.

It's not the first time Ms. Haddad has had to succeed in a man's world, she said. When she became the first female prosecutor in Lima, Ohio, she learned that if she was going to be taken seriously, she'd need to be tough and not get pushed around.

“A judge asked me once, “Why aren't you wearing a skirt?'” she recalled, still obviously incredulous at the question. “This judge was going to hold me in contempt!”

Not one to back down, Ms. Haddad got a letter from the bar association telling the judge that her attire was entirely appropriate for a female practicing in a court of law. Case dismissed.

Harlan Karp, of the Cleveland-based law firm Karp & Camino, practiced law with Ms. Haddad in Lima and remembers her as a tough lawyer and prosecutor. He said he isn't surprised she's succeeding in the male-dominated world of manufacturing.

“Every attorney had basically been a male, and the judges and prosecutors had all been males, so she had to be tough,” Mr. Karp said. “She didn't have any options.”

But Ms. Haddad found a way to be heard, he said, even by judges known to be tough or even disruptive with other lawyers.

“When someone's really good, even the most talkative judges don't interrupt,” he said. “They recognize talent when they see it.”


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