TOWN OF TONAWANDA — After almost 30 years of work and travel away from the Buffalo area, a Tonawanda resident has come back home to lead one of the town's largest industrial plants.
Warren Hoy, who was born and raised in the town, recently accepted the position of Plant Manager at the local DuPont Yerkes plant on River Road.
Hoy is a 31-year veteran of the company, most recently serving as the plant manager in Fort Madison, Iowa.
When his boss called and asked him to head up Tonawanda's plant, Hoy was excited to come home. He has many friends and family that still live in the area, and his wife is from Cheektowaga.
"Here, I can talk to employees about where I went to high school, the Bills and the Sabres," he said. "Those things didn't matter anywhere else, but here, it's a starting point."
Plant spokesman Peter Ciotta echoed Hoy's thoughts.
"It's important to be able to connect with people," Hoy said. "It's about personalizing leadership."
Hoy has talked to many DuPont employees about his youth in the town, when he went to Glendale Elementary before attending Sweet Home Middle and High School.
He then graduated from Cornell University with a degree in chemical engineering and accepted his first DuPont job at the Niagara Falls plant.
"I had a chemistry teacher at Sweet Home who motivated me in that direction," Hoy said. "Part of why I liked manufacturing is that I could do something different everyday. It was the path that would most likely allow me to do an array of different things."
Since Hoy's first job, he's worked at over 12 plants, spending time in Texas, Georgia and Delaware, working his way up through the company. Hoy and his wife have three sons, who all live in Texas.
"I am embarrassed to admit one son turned out to be a Cowboys fan," Hoy joked.
His current position in Tonawanda marks his third stint as a plant manager.
As part of a long list of job duties, Hoy spends about two hours of every day walking the plant's floors, checking in on the site's activities and making sure everyone gets what the need.
His current initiatives include an unified effort to increase the quality of DuPont products.
"That's part of how we stay competitive," he said. "We are looking at ways of enhancing that."
Despite Hoy's jokes and humor, he is serious about the plant's future and goals — including his main focus, safety.
The concern is an important one, as an explosion at the plant killed a contractor in 2010.
As part of the safety initiative, every employee, including those that work in the plant's offices, must walk the plant and be conscious of the safety protocols — everything from holding the hand rail while walking up stairs to completing manufacturing safety measures.
"I'm here in a communications role," Ciotta said. "But for that amount of time, my objective is to be very observant of safety."
But safety isn't the only measure Hoy is looking to improve. He is also concentrating on reducing the company's environmental footprint, after the company was fined $165,000 in May for violating the Clean Air Act.
"We are getting better," he said. "We are complying with whatever the regulations are. Sometime it is easy, and sometime it is not."
And most recently, the company has seen a decline in business, resulting in 1,500 layoffs nationwide. Hoy said he recognizes the necessity of those cuts, but is hoping for better times ahead — with shifted product goals and opportunities.
"We have had to make some changes," he said. "We are just dealing with the reality of business, and we have to make adjustments on the short term to be profitable in the long term. You have to weather the bad times to see the good times."
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.