Bill Hazelett: Vermont industrial pioneer, 1919-2010
The world’s metals industries lost a pioneer in the field of continuous casting and Vermont lost a remarkable engineer and employer with the passing of R William (Bill) Hazelett at age 91, on June 27, 2010. Son of CW Hazelett, the inventor of the twin-belt casting machine, Bill founded the Hazelett Strip-Casting Corporation and commercialized the design. The Hazelett twin-belt caster is employed extensively in nonferrous strip casting and is the heart of the Contirod continuous copper rod casting process used in the production of over 30 percent of the world’s copper wire.
Born in 1919, Bill received his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell in 1942 and immediately joined the war effort, ending up at the Bell Aircraft facility in Burlington. Following the war he remained in Vermont making his lifelong home in Colchester while commuting to Connecticut to work with his father. During this period he started the Tick Tock Shop in Burlington which he subsequently sold to his employees.
In 1956 Bill established the Hazelett Strip-Casting Corporation on the shores of Lake Champlain in Mallets Bay to further his father's pioneering work with the twin-belt continuous strip-caster. An ever persuasive and fiercely independent and charismatic soul, Bill thrived by encouraging his customers to work together to further their common interest in his relatively untried technology while he slowly expanded and commercialized the application of the twin-belt caster in both strip and billet production.
Bill remained extremely close to his employees and he was rewarded by their dedication and long unique experience. Today, the company remains the only commercial supplier of twin-belt casters worldwide.
He always insisted on maintaining fully integrated machine shops for both in-house development and timely customer service, a dedication often lacking in today’s machinery manufacturing industries. The holder of numerous patents, Bill always encouraged his engineers to try out new ideas drawing on the resources these facilities.
Although not finding commercial success in numerous steel casting pilot programs, Bill's perseverance resulted in the adaptation of the Hazelett twin-belt caster for continuous casting and inline rolling of aluminum in, what is often referred to as the thin-slab casting and rolling “mini-mill,” as well as copper, zinc, and lead strip at over 45 installations worldwide. Additionally, 35 casters are employed in the above mentioned Contirod plants.
Hazelett casters are currently operating in 25 countries and the vast majority of the companies business has always been overseas starting with Japan and Europe and now China, which currently is the companies dominate customer. For his efforts and leadership in taking American innovation overseas Bill was awarded the prestigious SBA Exporter of the Year Award by President Bush in 2001. This award is given annually to the owner of a small company that has increased sales through exports by using creative marketing strategies and effective solutions to export problems and in addition has shown a willingness to assist other small businesses in exporting
The company, which employs 140 people, remains family owned under the direction of Bill’s son David, who has been active in the business for 30 years. David has every intention of carrying on the legacy of his father in furthering one of a dwindling number of privately owned independent metals processing machinery manufacturers.
Source: Hazelett Strip-Casting Corp. www.hazelett.com