INTERVIEW WITH 
BARBARA SMITH

 

 

Barbara Smith, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Commercial Metals Company (CMC), will deliver the AIST William J. Hogan, S.J. Memorial Lecture at the AISTech 2022 President’s Award Breakfast on 17 May.

Smith joined CMC, a leading manufacturer of concrete reinforcing and other steel products, in 2011 as senior vice president and chief financial officer. She was promoted to chief operating officer in 2016 and to CEO in 2017.

Her keynote lecture is entitled “The Modern Steelmaker — A World of Opportunity.” Smith discusses her own career in Women In Steel, Women of Steel — Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, Vol. I, written by Karin J. Lund. The book will be available on-site at AISTech, and on AIST’s Bookstore on 23 May.

You grew up as one of nine children in Lafayette, Ind. How did that impact who you became?
We were raised to believe that you could do anything that you want to. It’s just a question of putting your mind to it and being willing to put in the effort. I didn’t grow up with a definition of what girls should do with their life. I boil my Midwestern upbringing down to strong values and a strong work ethic, which has been so beneficial throughout my entire working career.
 

Early in your career, you were a cost accountant. This led to you spending a lot of time with a manufacturing group. What made that valuable to you?
Although my technical training was accounting, I was always more interested in what actions produced the results rather than recording the results in the books and records and presenting the numbers. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I have always been curious about how businesses create value and make money. I used my financial background to translate what the numbers were telling us and helping business leaders make informed decisions.
 

How did visiting Durant, Okla., and working with the Choctaw Nation during the site selection process for what became CMC Steel Oklahoma affect you?
CMC wanted to support growth in the region. After visiting the area and seeing how economically depressed it was, I said, “We are going to do something good for this community.” The Choctaw chief, Gary Batton, had a vision of providing higher-quality jobs that were different from the entertainment jobs which support the local casino. CMC’s investment in Durant along with several other manufacturers has completely transformed this small community. Our employees are proud of our company and they get involved in the communities in which they live and work. In communities like Durant, our name is appreciated, because when we show up, we show up with everything.
 

Prior to the Hogan Memorial Lecture, you’ve been a panelist on the Town Hall Forum, and were also named Steelmaker of the Year in 2019. What did being named Steelmaker of the Year mean to you? 
The Steelmaker of the Year award was particularly meaningful because recipients are nominated and selected by their peers. I remember receiving a call from Mark Millett congratulating me following my nomination and selection and how much it meant that he would reach out to me. It is a pleasure and honor to be here celebrating Mark as this year’s recipient of Steelmaker of the Year.
 

Commercial Metals has announced it’s building a new micro-mill in the Eastern United States, and it reported record first-quarter results – what are you doing to keep the momentum going?
Everything we do at CMC is driven by our guiding principles: place the customer at the core of all we do; stay committed to our employees; give back to our communities; create value for our investors. Yes, our first-quarter results were outstanding and we have our people to thank for that. In a strong market, with supply chain challenges, labor shortages, inflationary pressures and a geopolitical crisis, CMC’s people have worked tirelessly to ensure we continue to perform at best-in-class levels. I am so proud of CMC and what we have accomplished.