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Farmer, Forest J. 1941—

Forest J. Farmer 1941

Automotive executive

At a Glance

Sources

In 1988, Forest J. Farmer was named president of Acustar, Inc., the electronic components subsidiary of the Chrysler Corporation. A spin-off of Chryslers consolidated parts-making division, Acustar was established in 1987 as an independent company in order to encourage innovation and be more competitive with other electronic parts manufacturers. When Farmer took over as president of the growing company, Acustars sales exceeded $3 billion dollars and the company employed approximately 28,000 personnel in 30 manufacturing facilities. Farmer, a 20-year Chrysler employee with a reputation as an outstanding manager, became responsible for overseeing all operation activities of Acustars three main units: Diversified Products, Electronic Products, and Engineered Products.

Farmers road to Chrysler began in the early 1960s at Purdue University, where he was an All-American linebacker and captain of the football team. He left college just before graduating to play professional football with the Denver Broncos, yet was forced to quit during his first year due to an injury. In 1962 Farmer returned to Purdue and received a degree in physical education and biology, and went on to teach school in Indianapolis for four years. Wanting new opportunities and challenges not provided by teaching, he joined a foreman training program in 1968 for Chrysler, which was actively seeking minority candidates with leadership potential.

Over the next 20 years, Farmer rapidly advanced through a number of manufacturing managerial positions at Chrysler. From 1968 to 1978, he progressed from industrial engineer to foreman, and then to labor supervisor. He briefly left Chrysler for nine months in 1979, when the corporation was on the brink of bankruptcy, and rejoined after the federal government bailed out the struggling auto giant through the Loan Guarantee Act. During the 1980s, Farmer successfully managed a number of Chrysler manufacturing plants throughout the United States and developed, as Charles Whitaker wrote in Ebony, a reputation as something of a miracle worker [by] gaining the cooperation of recalcitrant workers.

One reason that Farmer is successful as a manager is his hands-on approach to working with employees. Thomas Stallkamp, who was named chairman of Acustar at

At a Glance

Full name, Forest Jackson Farmer; born January 15, 1941, in Zanesville, OH; father worked in a steel mill; married wife Rosalyn, c. 1967; children: Forest, Jr., Christopher. Education: Purdue University, B.S., 1962.

Played linebacker with Denver Broncos of National Football League, 1962; teacher in schools in Indianapolis, IN, 1965-68; Chrysler Corporation, 1968-79, began in foreman training program at Indianapolis Electrical Plant, became industrial engineer, foreman, and labor supervisor; worked for Volkswagen of America, 1979; Chrysler Corporation, 1979-88, worked as plant manager of Jefferson Avenue Assembly Plant, Detroit, Ml, beginning 1981, assembly plant manager, Newark, DE, beginning 1983, plant manager, Sterling Heights, Ml, beginning 1984, director of advance manufacturing planning, Sterling Heights, 1986-87, and general plant manager, Highland Park, Ml, 1987-88; Acustar, Inc., Troy, Ml, president, 1988.

Addresses: Home Rochester Hills, Ml. Office Acustar, Inc., 1850 Research Dr., Troy, Ml 48083.

the same time Farmer came on board, commented to Whitaker on Farmers managerial skills: There are people who manage by momentumsort of let events carry them through. And there are people who manage by getting in there and doing something. Forest has the reputation of being the latter kind of manager. He assesses a situation and then tries to do something about it. Farmer will be expected to use these skills to the fullest at Acustar, since one of the companys financial goals is to not be solely reliant on the business of Chrysler. In order to do that, Acustar will have to be a competitive company, and Farmer commented to Whitaker that his football background will provide a helpful contribution. I think the automobile industry lends itself to a background in competitive sports. Its a competitive industry, especially with the challenge weve been getting by offshore competitors. You need managers who can respond to that challenge, who are used to pulling people together to work as a team. Farmer voiced enthusiasm about his responsibilities at Acustar: What I have liked about Chrysler is that they have always challenged me, and this is one of the greatest challenges yet. To be in charge of a whole operation like this to put in products, bid on contracts, develop my own profitabilityits a chance of a life time.

Sources

Ebony, March 1989.

Jet, September 26, 1988.

New York Times, August 31, 1988.

Wall Street Journal, August 31, 1988.

Michael E. Mueller

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