Perseverance and determination are close companions of Nancy Zapata, President of Control Electropolishing Corporation and President Emeritus of St. Nicks Alliance.
Zapata’s tenacity has steered Control Electropolishing through good times and struggles. Since 1991, Zapata has been the sole owner of this unique technology driven business — when only 10 years earlier she started there as a receptionist for the company’s founder, Charles Morla Jr.
Zapata rose up the ranks from administrative duties through to managerial roles. In addition she earned a BA in Accounting while raising two daughters, working at Control and via night classes. When the the founder of the company passed away the Morla Family realized Nancy was the only person who had the technical skill and determination to keep the company going and they decided to sell the business, to Zapata and another manager. Two years later she bought her partner out to become sole owner.
Throughout her career she has not allowed her status as a Hispanic woman of color in the business world faze her. Zapata’s forward thinking has earned the Minority Business Enterprise certification for her business, and it is the reason why she shines as an example for women and minorities in her community. Nancy epitomized the American experience of the recently arrived immigrant who overcame huge challenges to thrive in business as an entrepreneur.
There was a point when Nancy anticipated a decline in manufacturing, so she pursued a master’s degree in education, another passion of Zapata’s. However Nancy also continued to innovate in the business introducing environmentally friendly materials and improving production process and marketing. These investments paid off and business continues to grow!
With success comes challenge. In 2014, Zapata’s experience and steadfastness enabled her to overcome one of Control Electropolishing’s biggest challenges. It was then that a disgruntled employee exposed environmental risks in the company’s processes. It nearly put them out of business, “but we fought back and put ourselves right back on our feet,” said Zapata.
What could have been a negative was turned into a positive as Control Electropolishing has since reevaluated their environmental impact and has become a cleaner and greener company.
While many manufactures in Brooklyn and the United States have thrown in the towel and business and jobs have gone overseas, Control has continued to operate in Brooklyn. Founded in 1959, the company moved to its current location in 1972 to better serve the metal works industry.
Electropolishing or electrochemical polishing is an electrochemical process that removes material from a metallic piece to polish, passivate, and deburr metal parts. It is often described as the reverse of electroplating. Electropolishing is used in many products to give it that nice shiny polished finished such as medical and dental surgical instruments, tennis rackets, pharmaceutical research equipment, and aircraft components. It can be used on most types of stainless steel, and some other alloys as well.
Control’s 10 foot long, 4 foot high electrochemical tanks can handle a wide variety of sizes and shapes. In 2007, the company expanded their process line by establishing a brand-new pickling and passivating system and replaced the use of nitric acid with the use of environmentally friendlier citric acid.
The company continued to improve and change their process and began recycling the water in the rinse tanks, totally eliminating the need to discharge any wastewater. The process neutralizes the rinse water and removes heavy metals thereby recycling the water for future use. The metals removed are disposed of as sludge and sent to a disposal facility. The remaining water is clear and clean and put back into the rinse tanks to be used again. This green initiative has significantly reduced the company’s water bills doubling their savings and nearly eliminating their waste. They also replaced all of their rinse tanks to increase their capacity by 20 percent in order to continue to satisfy their metal work customers.
As the company moves into the future in an eco-friendly way, Control Electropolishing is discovering new methods to reduce their carbon footprint. For instance, they have replaced their diesel fuel generators with more efficient natural gas generators and have experienced a significant drop in their energy bills. The savings have helped the company to double their capacity to allow for future growth as they are experiencing about a 20 percent increase each year. In the next five years, they will remove old, ineffective machinery to expand their packing and treatment areas.
Walking through the building, it is clear that this process is meticulously organized. Every employee has a specific task that is crucial to the electropolishing process. Zapata is working on promoting transparency in her business and is always readily available to her customers and employees. Nancy’s commitment to Control Electropolishing Corp. is indelible; she sees a long future for the company grounded by her lengthy history in this business she’s enjoyed and learned from. Nancy Zapata’s leadership in business and community are an inspiration.