Tim McKernan of EJ USA has been with the company for 45 years
By Stefan Yablonski
Tim McKernan, facility manager at EJ USA in Schroeppel, has had an inventive and award-winning career.
The 2022 Transformational Leadership Award recipient was nominated by more than one of his teammates — with each nomination citing his humility, empathy and passion for servant leadership.
“I truly am humbled and honored to receive this award,” McKernan said. “Yes — I was surprised and had no idea that they had done it.”
‘They’ were “My engineering manager John Murray and Erika Metott our procurement agent,” he added.
McKernan grew up on Leonard Street in Buffalo and attended St. Aloysius grade school, Bishop Neumann High School and Erie Community College for electrical technology.
“My first job was putting taps on dance shoes. Yes, it’s a real job —and I was glad to get it. Pretty sure I was 16 at the time,” he recalled with a smile.
His favorite job was being a lifeguard, he added.
“I moved to Syracuse in 1993,” he said. “After moving here, I attended Le Moyne College for human resource management and obtained my Master of Business Administration from Syracuse University in 2003.”
He started with Syracuse Castings (now EJ) in 1971, working while he attended college. Syracuse Castings was incorporated in 1971.
“Syracuse Castings was the original company up until February of 2012 when we were acquired by EJ,” he explained. “I joined the company in 1978, when Syracuse Castings opened a fabrication shop in Buffalo.”
“I worked as an ironworker, welder–fabricator and quickly was promoted to shop supervisor,” he said. “I then moved into inside sales and new product development. Many of the current products we make were developed during this time.”
He then moved to outside sales while remaining active in the design and build of additional new products.
“In June 1999, I invented a product called SAFE HATCH and was awarded US patents 6,640,495 and 6,718,692 plus Canadian Patent 2 97 523,” he said.
This product combines covering a floor opening, fall-through protection and controlled confined space entry.
“We are proud of this invention because it has transformed the floor access door industry and has forced other manufacturers to copy it,” he said.
He has also received US Patent 10,851,515 in December 2020 for a product called Hatch Skirt.
“EJ is the global leader for infrastructure access solutions and these innovations align with our strategic goals,” he pointed out.
On the move again
“I worked in Buffalo until the plant grew to a point where we needed a larger facility. The decision was made to build it in Cicero,” he said.
They closed the Buffalo operation and he moved to Cicero to run that plant in 1993.
“In 1993 I moved from our fab plant in Buffalo to staff and equip the new facility located in Cicero,” he said.
That facility grew and went through two expansion additions to the original site.
In 2012 EJ acquired Syracuse Castings and through this acquisition it grew to the point where they needed another new facility.
“EJ chose our current site in Phoenix, where in 2019 we built the new state-of-the-art fabrication plant. This year EJ is celebrating our 145th anniversary,” he said.
McKernan is an avid fisherman.
“I love to fish,” he said. “I have a saying: ‘Fish ‘til it hurts and fish some more!’”
Will he be fishing in retirement any time soon?
“I do think of retiring,” he admitted. “But I have a couple more years to go. Don’t know exactly what I’ll do. I do know I will remain active. My wife and I are very active in church and will most likely dedicate more time to helping others.”
This June, he will have been married for 41 years.
“My wife’s name is Carmen McKernan. She is stay at-home mother and grandmother. I have two daughters and two granddaughters,” he said. “My oldest daughter is Sarah Fergerson. She is in charge of the operating engineers apprenticeship program. Her title is: training fund coordinator — IUOE Local 158 Training Fund. My youngest daughter, Elizabeth Kellogg, is the office manager at Liverpool Village Animal Wellness.”
What’s the best advice he has ever received?
Never give up.
“The tough things we face in life make us into the person we are,” he said.