Long career takes man to top at Noranda

Saturday, May 15, 2004

By Jill Bock

Special to Business Today

MARSTON -- For more than 30 years, Keith Gregston filled various positions at Noranda Aluminum Inc. Today, he has another job at the aluminum plant in New Madrid Industrial Park. Gregston is the new president and general manager of primary operations.

The appointment, recently announced by William Brooks, Noranda Aluminum Group president, was the obvious choice. "Keith has been there 32 years and he has had a number of positions," said Brooks from his Nashville, Tenn., office. "Every job we have put him in, he has done a good job. ... I'm confident that Keith can do a good job here."

Back in 1972, armed with an engineering degree from the University of Kentucky, Gregston began work as a process engineer in Noranda's Rod Mill. His job included setting up production standards, reviewing the product lines and consulting with customers of the plant, which then had some 350 employees and only one potline.

Over the next three decades, Gregston gained experience in Noranda's operations as he tackled new assignments. He worked as senior staff engineer for the plant's Engineering Department, served as superintendent for the Metal Products and Rod Mill departments and later as Reduction Plant manager. Before stepping into the role as interim president last October, Gregston was the director of operations.

"These days it is highly unusual for someone to have one employer for 32 years," said Gregston. "But Noranda has been good to me and I've been able to do a lot of different things at one location."

Reflecting on his years with Noranda, Gregston said moving into different jobs within the company has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of people. Also, he noted, it gave him an understanding of how important teamwork is to business success.

Through the years not only have his responsibilities grown, but also the plant. Today the 1,120 employees for the local plant operate three potlines that produced some 550 million pounds of primary aluminum in 2003 and served customers throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

Describing each plant expansion as an exciting time, Gregston added each had its own challenge. The most recent expansion brought some of the newest technology available to the plant site to make operations more efficient and increase metal production.

One of his priorities, Gregston continued, is to ensure Noranda is a safe place to work. "I want the employees to go home safe and sound and for Noranda to be the best place in Southeast Missouri to work," Gregston said.

Looking to the company's future, Gregston said there are challenges ahead for the aluminum industry as a whole and Noranda as it strives to be competitive in a global marketplace.

Jill Bock is editor of the Standard Democrat in Sikeston.

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