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The Power of Community in Cartagena


The Cartagena location is the only AmSty plant outside of the U.S., and supplying polystyrene to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. And while a polystyrene plant requires many policies and procedures to operate safely and effectively, there's nothing formal when it comes to employees providing feedback or simply sitting down for a casual conversation with Plant Manager Erick Duncan.

"We're a family here," said Erick, who understands the importance of fostering a sense of community in the workplace. "It's about me being available and involved, listening, being responsive to their needs and looking out for their welfare."

"The policy is they knock on my door and I say, 'Come in,'" he said.

He grew up working alongside his dad at the family auto shop, under cars, inside motors and learning the trade. That's what drew Erick Duncan, plant manager at AmSty's Cartagena, Colombia, facility to pursue a mechanical engineering degree that has served him well in his current role.

"When something needs to be fixed, I'm there, listening to understand the issue and solve the problem with the team," said Erick, who, when 17, mistakenly thought mechanical engineering was all about cars. "I quickly realized it had nothing to do with cars, but instead machines. I stayed with it."

After graduating with his degree, Erick spent 11 years in the fertilizer industry and also earned his master's degree in business administration. He brought that knowledge and experience to AmSty's Cartagena polystyrene facility six years ago, first working in maintenance and projects, and then as plant manager in 2019, overseeing a team of 30.

There's not much turnover at the Cartagena facility and Erick attributes that to the team spirit and everyone treating each other with respect and looking out for one another.

"We all remember the places where we've been well-treated, so we want to come back," said Erick.

He comes to work inspired each day by a team of seasoned employees, newbies and everything in between – each bringing something unique to the job and sharing their perspectives and experience with one another.

"I learn something new from them every day and they learn from each other," he said. 

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