My used machine tool company, Graff-Pinkert, has sold some used Davenport multi-spindle screw machines to China over the years. It’s impossible to know what type of parts they will make.
Haas Automation stopped selling machines to Russia after the invasion in February, but according to a PBS news show Haas parts are still reaching Putin’s people.
Gene Haas’ Formula 1 racing team’s top sponsor was a major fertilizer producer based in Russia. The son of that company’s owner, Nikita, was the car’s driver.
The Russians no longer put their name on the Haas car and Nikita is out as a driver, but for PBS it is still a story worth 10 minutes on the 6:00 p.m. news.
We want our heroes to be successes. We want our successes to be heroes. We want life to be simple and clear-cut.
It rarely is.
Gene Haas is one of the most incredible business icons of the last 40 years. I compare him to Elon Musk because he has done the virtually impossible. He has made brilliant machine tools, both mills and lathes, at economical prices in Los Angeles of all places. American machine tool builders such as Warner-Swayze, National Acme, and New Britain folded decades ago.
Gene Haas is 70 years old and owns 100% of Haas Automation. He could have sold out and collected billions of bucks, but instead, he challenged Mazak and DMG from 50 miles north of Hollywood. What Gene Haas has done is a business miracle.
Elon Musk gets the accolades in the press, but most people in America have never even heard of Haas. He is no Gates or Jobs. He just keeps building mills and lathes, selling them at reasonable prices to people from New York to Idaho to Alabama who have a dream to cut steel into a usable product on a shoestring.
Gene Haas did go to jail a while back. He got two years for tax evasion, serving 16 months.
Various sources have theorized that he chose to not pay his taxes because he felt he had been wrongly fined for borrowing Hurco’s CNC patents, which were incredibly broad. The other machine tool builders during the same time period had agreed to pay Hurco a licensing fee to use the company’s technology.
And now Haas is getting bad press by the holier than thou Public Broadcasting Service for selling spare parts for his mills and lathes through a Chinese shell company which possibly ended up in a Russian optics plant that provides lenses for weapons used against Ukraine.
Personally, I will not make a judgment about Haas Automation and the Russian connection. Haas has been the biggest benefactor of machine tool education in the United States. He has funded many technical college and 4-year college programs. Haas recently bought a piece of land in Henderson, Nevada, to continue to build beautiful economically viable mills and lathes in America while nobody else is able to.
Life is complicated. War is complicated and nasty.
Business can be too. It always has been. It always will be.
Question: Do you know where the products you make end up?