The appointment, recently announced by William H. Brooks, Noranda Aluminum Group president, was the obvious choice.
"Keith has been there 32 years and he has had a number of positions," said Brooks from his Nashville, Tenn., office. "Every job we have put him in, he has done a good job. ... I'm confident that Keith can do a good job here."
Back in 1972, armed with an engineering degree from the University of Kentucky, Gregston began work as a process engineer in Noranda's Rod Mill. His job included setting up production standards, reviewing the product lines and consulting with customers of the plant, which then had some 350 employees and only one potline.
Over the next three decades, Gregston gained experience in Noranda's operations as he tackled new assignments. He worked as senior staff engineer for the plant's Engineering Department, served as superintendent for the Metal Products and Rod Mill Departments and later as Reduction Plant manager. Before stepping into the role as interim president last October, Gregston was the director of operations.
"These days it is highly unusual for someone to have one employer for 32 years," said Gregston. "But Noranda has been good to me and I've been able to do a lot of different things at one location."
Reflecting back on his years with Noranda, Gregston said moving into different jobs within the company has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of people. Also, he noted, it gave him an understanding of how important teamwork is to business success.
Through the years not only have his responsibilities grown, but also the plant. Today the 1,120 employees for the local plant operate three potlines which produced some 550 million pounds of primary aluminum in 2003 and served customers throughout the U.S. and Mexico.
Describing each plant expansion as an exciting time, Gregston added each had its own challenge. The most recent expansion brought some of the newest technology available to the plant site to make operations more efficient and increase metal production.
Gregston said he was very appreciative to be appointed to his new position.
"I am honored to be given responsibility for our plant in New Madrid," he said. "We have a great workforce who take a lot of pride in their work and we receive strong support from the surrounding communities. I look forward to future challenges and realize it will take the continued support of everyone to ensure our plant's future success."
His devotion to his fellow employees is evident as he credits their support as part of the reason he received his most recent promotion.
One of his priorities, Gregston continued, is to ensure Noranda is a safe place to work. "I want the employees to go home safe and sound and for Noranda to be the best place in Southeast Missouri to work," Gregston said.
Looking to the company's future, Gregston said there are challenges ahead for the aluminum industry as a whole and Noranda as it strives to be competitive in a global marketplace.
"I want us to continue to be a viable force in the aluminum business," said Gregston about the local plant. To do this under his guidance as president and general manager Gregston said the plant must be flexible enough to adapt to aluminum market conditions, be prepared for change and still focused on sound business strategy.
And Noranda has a competitive edge - the employees - added Gregston. "The whole is equal to the sum of its parts. If everyone is not working together we can't survive. Working together, we will."
Gregston resides in Sikeston with his wife, Debbie, who works at Lee Hunter Elementary School. Their daughter Anne is an art director and graphic designer in St. Louis and her twin brother, Chris, is a computer analyst with SBC in St. Louis.