APRA Distinguished Service Award Goes to Frank Seabourne
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Learn more about Frank Seabourne, APRA's Distinguished Service Award Recipient.
Frank Seabourne’s humble origin began in 1934 in Leadwood, Missouri, a small lead mining town in South Eastern Missouri where pretty much everyone worked for the mine company.
People of Leadwood, including Frank’s extended family, were very poor by today’s standards, but since most everyone in Leadwood was “poor” life seemed average to young Frankie Gene.
Upon graduating from High School at age 17, Frank immediately began looking for a job. Work was difficult to find there, so his search took him to the big city of St. Louis where he stayed with his Uncle Fred while “trying out” a couple manual labor jobs. He soon learned that mixing cement in a wheelbarrow and then hauling it around by hand was not his lot in life.
Consequently, four months later in 1952, Frank enlisted into the US Navy. From the initial aptitude test that the Navy gives to the young recruits during the San Diego boot camp it became clear that this young sailor had above average intelligence. After boot camp Frank was offered a choice of schooling in mechanics, engineering or electronics. He chose electronics.
However, the course study included higher math, which Frank had found a way to skip at Leadwood High. During his grade school days he was more interested in cementing his claim as class hoodlum. But at the Naval Tech School, Frank was falling desperately behind his classmates, who were already schooled in algebra and calculus from high school or junior college. Undaunted, he bore down. Frank figured out the math and finished in the top 20 percentile of his class.
After training Frank spent the final 18 months of his naval career at the Naval Air Station in Hutchinson, Kansas serving as a Radioman for the training of pilots in multi-engine planes. The pilots were experienced in single engine fighters from Korea, but needed training for flying multi-engine bombers. The job of radioman on the Neptune P2 anti-submarine bomber allowed him to travel all over the country including some interesting excursions to Panama.
It was in Hutchinson where he met the love of his life, Marlene Tiemann, a beautiful farm girl from Lincoln, Kansas. Marlene was a student at the Mercy School of Nursing. Since the school forbids students to be married, the couple put off nuptials until Marlene finished school. They married in October 1955, and just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this October.
After serving three years in the Navy the newlywed landed his first real public sector job working for Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, Georgia. His well-paid job was On-Board Electrician for the C130 prototype/test plane that was continuously being modified with upgraded engines, propellers, fuel tanks and avionics. Essentially, his job was fitting these new “gizmos” to the CS130 and take the bird up to make sure it still flies.
Frank and Marlene bought a nice home in Marietta, started a family with the births of a beautiful baby boy and girl in 1957 and 1958 respectively. Frank bought himself a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, which he paid the grand sum of $1000.00. Things were going swell.
Then, as so often happens, a big change came down in the form of a job change and relocation. Lockheed was shutting down the B52 production and the anticipated layoffs were not going to be pretty and likely to spill over to the C130 production. Frank who was hired just 2 years earlier would be one of the first to go. So before getting his pink slip Frank and Marlene packed up, sold their house, sold the ‘53 ‘Vette for $1200.00 (nice tidy profit of $200), loaded up a little U-Haul trailer and headed out to California in their 1958 Chevrolet Impala Convertible.
Outside of Flagstaff, while Marlene was driving, the wheels of U-Haul trailer, loaded with a refrigerator, dining table, sofa, a couple chairs and various sundries, got caught in a rut off the shoulder. The trailer began jackknifing violently and then flipped over. U-Haul was kind enough to bring out a new trailer but would not help transfer the contents. Frank had to hire a transient who wandering down the road to help reload the new trailer.
The next day, more trouble arrived. The couple drove into a snowstorm in the middle of the Mojave Desert losing control of the trailer again and blasted through a berm of snow. This time the trailer did not flip and after a fair amount of histrionics the young couple (and two infants who were of no help) managed to free the rig without having to call a tow truck or hire another transient.
Late the next day they rolled into Fair Oaks, CA with all bodies and possessions intact save for a good size dent in the side of the fridge, and of course, no ’53 ‘Vette, which was sold before the trip, the same, now priceless Vette, that Frank’s son still pisses and moans about to this day!
Anyway…they moved in with Frank’s mother, stepfather and uncle staying in a one-room apartment, which was actually a converted garage. Marlene was a “good sport” putting up with a curtain to separate the three families until they found a home in Citrus Heights.
Although they moved to California with no jobs in hand, Frank knew they were hiring at rocket maker Aerojet-General. Sure enough, two months later he was hired on as an Electrical Technician. At that time Aerojet built the propulsion systems for the Titan ICBM missiles. Frank’s job was fitting the electrical on the monitoring equipment for the test firings.
By 1966 the “cost plus” space program was beginning to scale back and Aerojet soon began lay offs. By early 1967 Frank was looking for work. He tried selling Farmers insurance for a while. However, he did not like the tedious part of the job and was soon looking for alternatives. It was then when Frank met two other Little League Baseball dads, Bill Schimpf Sr. and Norm Dumler who were making plans to launch a alternator and starter rebuilding shop.
Bill had been running the one-man shop for a few years and it was drowning in debt. Norm was a mechanic at a gas station looking for opportunity. Frank brought in a good amount of enthusiasm and more importantly, a cash infusion that was desperately needed. Frank cleaned out all his savings and sold all his stocks. B & J Auto Electric, now reformed by the three equal partners, was able to buy cores and seed inventory. It was 1967 and the beginning of AIM, a.k.a. B & J Auto Electric, was officially launched. Marlene was worried beyond all despair.
Frank hit the road selling to all the local Jobbers and Filling Stations. Bill and Norm did the rebuilding. Marlene came in part time to do the books. They soon hired a kid to deliver product. Their little five “man” shop was starting to grow.
By 1976 B & J had grown to 15 employees and had developed a reputation of supplying what was then called “Foreign” alternators, generators and starters. Being on the West Coast, the amount of demand for Japanese and European units was growing rapidly. However, there was a very limited supply of the component parts needed to do the rebuilding.
It was then that Steve Clausman and Frank began talking about supplying parts and units to other rebuilders. They decided to form a division called FEMSA. FEMSA, operating within B & J’s Auburn Blvd. location, lasted less than a year when the two decided to part ways. FEMSA moved to Newcastle, CA and eventually became CPC, Component Parts Company.
The next year Frank still believed there could be a good business in selling the Import parts. He bought Bridico, an importer and specialty “Foreign” rebuilder located in Oakland, CA. Frank moved Bridico’s rebuilding operations to Rancho Cordova, but kept the Oakland location to use as a warehouse to serve a growing business in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay area for the rebuilt units.
The Bridico acquisition developed into a relationship with various overseas suppliers of the component parts. With the supply line in hand AIM (Automotive Importing Mfg., Inc.) was formed in 1978. The parts warehousing was done at the Oakland location, and the sales department operated at the Sacramento offices.
In 1981 the Sacramento operations were moved to their first Rancho Cordova location, tripling the capacity. The corporate name Automotive Importing Mfg., Inc. (AIM for short) was now used for all operations. By 1985 the company had 45 employees with two divisions that complemented each other; 1.) Remanufacturing of the complete units, and 2.) Sales of component parts to rebuilders.
Business continued to grow and in 1989 AIM moved to its current location, 3920 Security Park Dr., Rancho Cordova. The 41,000 sq. ft. building was previously owned by Douglas Aircraft Co and used as the administration building for the Saturn S-IVB test operations in Rancho Cordova. At the time Frank thought the company was “set for life” facility-wise. But the company kept growing and by the time they had moved into the new facility Frank had bought out the other two original partners.
In 1993 AIM landed their first large customer, Beck/Arnely World Parts, a parts warehouse specializing in Import parts. Beck/Arnley’s sales of alternators and starters exploded once they took on the AIM remanufactured program. AIM doubled in size within 18 months. By the end of 1994 AIM employed 173 workers and purchased another building, 16,000 sq.ft., for the storage of cores. In 1996 AIM purchased an additional building, 45,000 sq.ft., where they moved the remanufacturing a year later.
In 2000 AIM added NAPA to their list of customers, selling to the West Coast division warehouses and franchised stores. Selling to NAPA was challenging as AIM had to learn a whole new level of customer requirements. Even with the challenges AIM became the largest supplier of reman units to the West Coast division.
By 2002 AIM had bought another 2 buildings, now totaling 5 building, all within a few hundred yards in the same Security Park Industrial Park and employed 320 workers. The 16,000 sq.ft. building housed the tooling and engineering department. AIM was one of the first production rebuilders to have this capability.
By 2008 it was becoming increasing difficult to compete against the large rebuilders in Mexico. AIM sold its remanufacturing division to Motorcar Parts of America (MPA) and kept the division that sold parts and units to rebuilders, which it still operates today at the original Security Park, Rancho Cordova location.
The sale of the remanufacturing division has allowed Frank to scale back his work life a bit. He greatly enjoys playing golf three times a week with a whole new set of friends. He loves going to his grandsons’ baseball and swimming meets, as well as his granddaughters’ ballet recitals.
Frank is proud of the company’s growth and success. He credits the success in one simple statement, “We got the right people to do the job”.
If we were to list all our terrific employees over the years who contributed greatly it would be very long, and we are afraid we may forget someone, but…
There are two key employees that cannot go without mentioning:
Gary McQuillen - Vice President, Production
Our fantastic Production Manager who came from World Generator in Chicago. He was able to manage the growth and at the same time elevated the quality to the highest level that was respected throughout the industry. Gary, who is now retired in Arkansas, was truly a great manager and leader for us.
Marlene Seabourne - Original Secretary
Frank’s loving wife, partner and friend through good times and bad. Frank says of her “Even though she worried so much, she stood by me, believed in me and was there in the trenches to help make it all work. It would not have happened without her”.