Gene Haas was born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1952, the second of four siblings. While still a young boy, he moved with his family to the Los Angeles area, where his father went to work for Hughes Aircraft as a designer of electrical cabinets. His mother stayed at home with Gene and his siblings while they were young, and later went to work as a schoolteacher.
Gene’s childhood was stable, and revolved around his family. He was a decent student who competed in track, and he demonstrated an aptitude for mechanical processes at an early age. Because his family stressed hard work and responsibility, Gene and his siblings all found jobs while still in school.
Gene delivered newspapers while in elementary school, and got his first job in a machine shop at the age of 14 – sweeping floors and cleaning up. After only six months at the machine shop, Gene was setting up lathes and conventional milling machines. He continued working at machine shops throughout high school and college, mastering the machining techniques that would serve him later in life
Mr. Haas graduated from high school in Mission Hills, California, in 1970. He then attended California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where he studied engineering and business, graduating in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and Finance. After working as an industrial programmer for the next few years, Mr. Haas founded Proturn Engineering, a small contract machine shop in Sun Valley, California, in 1978.
Gene Haas worked side-by-side with his two employees at Proturn Engineering, machining parts for the electronics and aerospace industries. It was during this time that Mr. Haas developed a fully programmable 5C collet indexer to boost productivity in his own shop. The Haas 5C was the industry’s first device to automatically re-position parts accurately for machining by pressing a button, rather than having to reposition the material by hand – a cumbersome and time-consuming process.
Gene Haas and Haas Automation, Inc.
The machine tool industry received the Haas 5C Indexer with enthusiasm, and in 1983, Mr. Haas founded Haas Automation, Inc., to manufacture the economical and reliable devices. The company started with ten employees housed in a 5,000-square-foot facility. During the next 4 years, Mr. Haas expanded his product line to include a wide selection of fully programmable rotary tables, indexers and machine tool accessories. Haas Automation quickly became the industry leader in 4th- and 5th-axis parts positioning.
In 1987, Mr. Haas took the company in a different direction, and designed his first vertical machining center (VMC) – the VF-1. The prototype was introduced to the manufacturing world in 1988 at the International Machine Tool Show (IMTS) in Chicago – for the unheard of price of $49,900. Industry experts were skeptical that an American company could build and sell a machining center for less than $50,000, but Haas Automation not only could, but did. The new product was a huge success, and today, virtually every manufacturer of VMCs worldwide produces a similar machine in the $50,000 price range.
In 1992, Haas Automation moved to a larger facility in Chatsworth, California. In 1997, the company moved again, to its current location in Oxnard, California. The 1-million-square-foot Oxnard facility is one of the largest, most modern machine tool manufacturing operations in the United States. Haas Automation currently produces four major product lines: vertical machining centers (VMCs), horizontal machining centers (HMCs), CNC lathes and rotary tables. Haas products are sold through a worldwide network of more than 170 Haas Factory Outlets – in more than 80 countries – that provide the industry’s best support and service. Major customers include Caterpillar, Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, John Deere and Rockwell Automation.
Although Mr. Haas is the owner and president of Haas Automation, his primary duty has always been heading up the engineering department – 95% of all new design ideas originate with him. Mr. Haas sketches out his ideas, and then turns them over to the engineers for refinement. He then reviews the engineers’ work and makes further modifications, as required. One of Haas Automation’s strengths is its ability to take a new machine from initial concept, through design, and into production in just 6 to 12 months.
Gene Haas and Education
Gene Haas and Haas Automation, Inc., have long been committed to training the machinists and engineers of the future, actively supporting educational institutions through entrustments, educational discounts, and donations of used equipment – first at the local level, and now worldwide.
The shortage of skilled labor is an ongoing problem facing the manufacturing industry. Haas Automation has taken an active role addressing the shortage by establishing a worldwide network of Haas Technical Education Centers (HTECs). These HTECs are a vital part of many local training centers, community colleges, and universities – providing an environment where students can take theory out of the classroom and apply it in a modern manufacturing environment. Students learn machining and metalworking skills through a hands-on approach, using the types of CNC machine tools they will encounter when they enter the workforce.
“By providing training for students today,” says Gene Haas, “we are guaranteeing a pool of skilled labor for the future, and continued growth for the manufacturing industry.”
Gene Haas and Racing
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Gene Haas is passionate about auto racing. He has competed successfully in off-road truck racing, and sponsored numerous race teams through the years, in CART, IndyCar, and NASCAR, including a long-time partnership with Hendrick Motorsports. In 2002, Mr. Haas purchased the Craftsman Truck Race Facility from Hendrick Motorsports and formed his own NASCAR team, Haas CNC Racing. In 2008, Gene Haas joined forces with NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart to form the highly successful Stewart-Haas Racing team.
Gene Haas has been a dedicated philanthropist for most of his life. He shares his success through charitable giving – improving communities on the local, state, and international levels.
In 1999, Gene Haas founded The Gene Haas Foundation, a non-profit organization to help provide funding to various humanitarian organizations. These charities provide youth services, assistance to families in need, and educational support. Gene Haas helps fund grants and scholarships for programs at institutions such as the American University of Associate Women and California State University Northridge.
Since 1999, the Gene Haas Foundation has helped more than 800 organizations, including the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Salvation Army, the RAIN Transitional Living Center, the American Red Cross, and the United Way.
Gene Haas has provided more than $8.5 million dollars to various non-profit organizations.