Photo of Bob Swanson at his desk.

To celebrate, we asked Bob to tell us a little about his roles over the years, lessons learned and continuing his family’s legacy.

Tell Us About Your History With The Business:

“My grandfather originally started United Wire, and its always been a family run company, with many different family members playing key roles within the company.

My father had me start working in 1994 as a junior in high school, where I started out sweeping floors before moving on to things like working the re-spoolers, the tinning lines, and annealing lines. After that, I learned how to run our rolling mill lines and helped with the shipping department before taking a break to attend college.

When I graduated from the University of Maine with a Marketing degree in 2000, I returned to the company to get involved with work in the office. I shadowed my grandmother who handled the accounting at the time, before moving over to sales. Sales was a huge learning curve for me, and I used to read technical books at night, because I wanted to be able to have informed, intelligent conversations with customers. I knew I had a lot to learn!

2004 was a difficult year for us, but the events of that year ultimately made us much stronger. Our founder (my grandfather) passed away that year, and my father took over as president. We are a close family, so that loss was a difficult time for us all.

The same year, the state of Connecticut was building a new bridge, and decided they needed our land as part of the project. We unfortunately learned what “eminent domain” means the hard way, when the state forced us to move our company and took possession of our land and building for the bridge project.”

“The cost of finding a new suitable building, along with moving all of the equipment became a huge financial strain for us- these were difficult years. In 2007, the company needed a new leader. My grandmother asked me to take over as president at just 31 years old. I had always hoped to lead the company “someday” but never expected to be asked to fill that role as such an early age. If I am honest, it was a daunting undertaking for my young and inexperienced self. And while I was intimidated, I wanted to lead the company in the way I know my grandfather would want.

We were finally starting to recover from the expense of our big move, and I was just getting acclimated to my new role as president when that same year, the financial crisis of 2007-2008 hit, and I had my hands full with “the most severe worldwide economic crisis since the Great Depression.” These were a couple of years where reality hit hard and I had to grow up… FAST- LOL.

Like many manufacturers during the financial crisis, we were struggling to stay afloat, but I was determined to keep our family business going, even refinancing my home to loan the company money. I had many worry-filled nights wondering when and if we could survive this financial crisis. There were many offers to buy our company, but our team refused to let our family’s legacy and dream go. There were some lean years, but we held on.

I believe our grit and determination helped us make it to the “other side” and since then, United Wire has not only recovered, but truly flourished. We have grown by leaps and bounds since those lean years, since adding a new building, many new pieces of equipment, new team members, and many new customers along the way! Today, we are truly an amazing team, and United Wire would not be where it is today without them.”

1998 United Wire Company Photo

Photo: Year 1998. Founder Edward E. “Bud” Laird: top row, second from right. Bob Swanson, bottom row, second from right.

What Is The Greatest Lesson You Have Learned In Your Time At United Wire?

“The greatest lesson I have learned is that people and relationships are crucial. My grandfather loved the idea of having great relationships with customers. He also hated automated recordings, and got very frustrated when he tried to make a call but could not talk to a real person. So we have worked hard to continue making relationships with our customers a priority, always being reachable, and highly responsive.

We all have to do business together, we may as well make it was painless and as enjoyable for everyone that we can.

He also taught us that relationships with employees are just as important. My grandfather always used preach that “you are only as good as your employees” and to always take care of them. I believe that is why we have so many “decades long” employees and extremely low turnover. Our employees are the reason for our success.”

Left: Bob at his desk holding a family photo. Right: Bob holding his grandfather's original US patent.

Left: Bob at his desk holding a family photo. Right: Bob holding his grandfather’s original US patent.

What Do You Think Your Grandfather Would Think About United Wire Today?

“I think he would be very impressed by how the company has grown and diversified. When I started working at the company, we were making products like zipper wire, and eye glass frame wire- simple applications where the shapes were not particularly difficult to produce. Today, we are able to create much more complex and precise shapes for applications such as aerospace and medical- I think we would have loved to see the company grow to what it is today.

I also think he would be impressed with our overall growth- today we have many more machines and lines making wire everyday, allowing us to have tripled our capacity. I know he would be thrilled to see the family continuing to carry his torch. Its a proud and important task for us all at United Wire.”

Left: United Wire in 2024. Right: Bob at a wire shaping line in the shop at United Wire.