Futura leader inspires others

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:14 PM

Minna Wang

Even before you meet her, you can guess that Sue Johnson is a very powerful, successful businesswoman.

The reception area of Futura Industries, a Clearfield Freeport Center company of which Johnson is president, is full of awards - trophies, plaques and letters, even an article taken from Forbes magazine naming Johnson as one of the 100 most powerful women of 2011.

A flat-screen TV near the entrance displays a timed PowerPoint presentation, both introducing the company and naming the visitors that are coming to Futura today -- even me.

As I wait, I run through the reasons why I've come to interview Sue Johnson: she is a powerful inspiration to women who want to go into engineering, like me; she is the president of the board of trustees of NUAMES -- my high school; and she is involved in the community and contributes a great deal of her time and efforts.

By the time I've finished thinking, a well-dressed woman breezes into the waiting room, automatically and unknowingly brightening the room with her cheery tone, big smile and friendly greetings to everyone in the office by name. Right off the bat, it's easy to see that this is Johnson, and that her vibrant personality brings a positive energy not only to Futura, but everywhere she goes. She leads me into her office, a sunny and extremely organized room, but also a true workspace, judging by its two telephones and two computers.

The first 20 minutes pass by quickly with easy conversation about high school, college, career choices and school in general. As for her own childhood "Johnson says, "By the time I was in high school, I'd gone to 10 different schools. My dad was in the military so I grew up all over."

Johnson talks about her great experiences at CalPoly, where she earned her mechanical engineering bachelor's degree, and then at the University of Santa Clara for her master's. After that, Johnson worked with many different manufacturing companies, the latest one being Futura.

Futura Industries, one of the most elite engineering companies in Utah and the company Johnson says she has thoroughly enjoyed working with, deals with the "design, manufacture, and sale of aluminum extrusions" (www.futuraind.com). This means that huge poles of aluminum are heated to about 900 degrees and then pushed through dies. After that, many secondary operations take place that deal with artificial aging and customer production requests.

"I look at (Futura) from the vantage point of continuous improvement," Johnson says while giving examples of how the company has improved and how it surpasses its competition.

Not only is Sue Johnson the president and CEO of Futura, she is also the president of the Board of Trustees of NUAMES. Two years before NUAMES opened, Gov. Mike Leavitt wrote her a letter inviting her onto the board and she accepted.

When asked about her role and duties as the board president, Johnson says, "I set the philosophical countenance, the culture. I push what NUAMES is going to be." She calls the school a "labor of love," and after speaking with her, it's clear that she truly cares about the future of NUAMES.

One secret to Johnson's success, more than anything, is focusing on people. For her company, that's the employees and the customers. For NUAMES, it's the teachers and the students.

"Our teachers aren't even superstars -- they're like planets," she says, and then adds, "How people are treated is important."

Every word Johnson says has a deep, underlying passion for whatever it is she's referring to, whether it's her family or a lecture she attended on the traits of highly successful people. She throws in sound effects and words from her vast vocabulary as she speaks, making her both entertaining and educational.

It's important for teens to know about people in our communities like Johnson because she's an inspiration and a great role model. She heads her own company, is on the board for many different schools, and has spoken across the country. She is also nationally recognized for integrating new policies at Futura that have improved the company in terms of morale and product.

Sue impressed me by how personal she is, and how down-to-earth she stays. She is also very well rounded and knows a great deal about many things. All in all, it's hard to imagine anyone more warm, inviting and interesting than Johnson. Although the Forbes article refers to her as an "imposing figure," she seems, to me, more than anything, to be approachable and classy.

Minna Wang is a junior at NUAMES. She loves to take pictures, go shopping and run. Email her at minna.wang13@gmail.com.

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