Gene Haas

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Gene Haas
Born(1952-11-12) November 12, 1952 (age 61)
NationalityUnited States American
OccupationFounder of Haas Automation
 
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Gene Haas
Born(1952-11-12) November 12, 1952 (age 61)
NationalityUnited States American
OccupationFounder of Haas Automation

Gene Francis Haas (born November 12, 1952) is founder, president, and sole stockholder of Haas Automation, a CNC machine tool manufacturer. He also has a presence in motorsports, having founded NASCAR team Haas CNC Racing (now known as Stewart-Haas Racing), and the Haas Formula One team.

Haas Automation[edit]

Main article: Haas Automation

Haas graduated from California State University Northridge in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance. He originally majored in engineering but switched to business after Lockheed nearly went bankrupt. Ironically, after graduation he was unable to find employment in business that paid more than what he was earning at his summer machine shop job. So, for the next few years he worked as a machinist and CNC programmer. In 1978, he opened Pro-turn Engineering, a small machine shop with two employees; Tony Cortez and Abel Bugarin.

In 1980, Haas noticed that it took Bugarin a long time to manually position an indexer. Haas thought building his own indexer with a stepper motor drive would make his shop more efficient. He built one for himself and few more for other machine shops. In March 1983, he displayed his indexer at WESTEC (an industry expo). After seeing the positive reaction of attendees, he decided to form Haas Automation to mass-produce them. His first commercial product, the HBI-5C (Haas Brothers Indexer), sold well because it was programmable and inexpensive. In 1986, Haas and a partner were awarded a U.S. Patent for their invention.[1]

In 1988 Haas started production on a fully enclosed CNC machining center priced well below the competition. Some believed Haas copied or reverse engineered this machine but at the time existing machines were so hard to use that Haas used them as an example of what not to do. Over time, Haas machine tools became extremely popular, mostly because they are simple, very affordable, and because the in-house designed computer control is operator-friendly (no soft-keys or cryptic menus).[2]

By 1996, Haas had outgrown its facilities in Chatsworth, California and began a search that ultimately brought it to Oxnard, California. In March 1997, the move was completed into the Oxnard factory, a 420,000-square-foot (39,000 m2) facility. By 2005, the factory had been expanded to 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2).

Haas Automation is now the largest machine tool manufacturer in the United States. Sales for 2008 reached a record reportedly just under $1 billion worldwide.

Auto racing[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

Main article: Stewart-Haas Racing

In 2002, Gene Haas formed a new NASCAR race team, Haas CNC Racing. After purchasing the Concord, North Carolina-based Craftsman Truck Race facility from Hendrick Motorsports, Haas CNC Racing began work on its first entry in the Nextel Cup (now Sprint Cup) series as a single-car team. The first entry for the new team was September 30, 2002 with driver Jack Sprague who finished 35th after a crash. The team raced only three times in 2002. By 2003 the team was running full-time with several driver changes over the season. The team won its first race in the then-Busch Series in 2004 with driver Jason Leffler. By 2006 the team had relocated to a new, state-of-the-art facility in Kannapolis, North Carolina and was fielding a full-time two car team in the Cup Series. At the end of 2008, the team was still struggling with a total 6+ year average finish of just under 27th place.

Late in 2008, Haas announced that he would join forces with NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.[3] Stewart would drive for the team and in return would be given a 50% stake in the company from Haas. Stewart led the points for much of 2009, winning four times at Pocono, Daytona, Watkins Glen, and Kansas, ending up sixth in points. Stewart had a mediocre 2010 before picking up wins at Atlanta and Fontana, while Newman won at Phoenix. Stewart won the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship, winning 5 of the 10 Chase races.

Haas was present at the first team win in May 2009 when Stewart won the All-Star race. Haas also joined Stewart on the podium at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011, as Stewart won the Ford EcoBoost 400 that day and claimed his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

The team currently runs cars in the Sprint Cup Series for Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch. Haas fields a Camping World Truck Series team on a limited basis for Cole Custer.

With Custer's victory at New Hampshire in September of 2014, Haas joined a select club of owners who have won as an owner in all three national touring series, joining Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Jack Roush.

Formula One[edit]

Main article: Haas F1 Team

In January 2014, Haas confirmed that he had formally submitted to the FIA his interest in entering a team in the F1 championship in 2015 or 2016,[4] provisionally named Haas Racing Developments.[5] On April 11, 2014, Haas announced that he had been granted a license from the FIA.[6] However, on May 28, Motorsport.com writer Lee Spencer reported that the team will delay its debut until 2016,[7] with Haas officially confirming the postponement on June 4.[8]

Wind Shear wind tunnel[edit]

In 2006 planning began for a commercial wind tunnel. Haas commissioned California-based Triliad Development to oversee the project. The facility was designed to be the most advanced automotive wind tunnel in the world. The facility is centered around an MTS rolling road which allows a car to be restrained in place directly on top of a massive tread mill-like machine with a 70-foot-long (21 m) by 10-foot-wide (3.0 m) by 1 mm thick stainless steel belt rotating at speeds up to 180 miles per hour (290 km/h). The rolling road accurately simulates the dynamics of a car on the race track, unlike traditional fixed-floor tunnels. Construction of the new wind tunnel began in 2007 and was completed by year-end. After six months of commissioning, the wind tunnel opened to its first customer, a Formula One race team, in July 2008. Today the Wind Shear facility counts numerous NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One and American Le Mans Series teams as customers. Wind Shear is owned 100% by Haas.

Philanthropic activities[edit]

Haas has used his position as a successful businessman to share with the local community. Haas Automation and Haas were the recipient of the Roy Pinkerton Award, presented by United Way, Ventura County Chapter.[9] Many engineering colleges have "CNC Labs" outfitted with machines he donated, including California Polytechnic State University[10] (Cal Poly), California State University Channel Islands,[11] and California State University Northridge.[12]

The Gene Haas Foundation[edit]

The Gene Haas Foundation was formed in 1999 to fund the needs of the local community and other deserving charities, at the discretion of its founder, Mr. Gene Haas. Of special importance to the Gene Haas Foundation are children’s charities and organizations that feed the poor, especially within the local community of Ventura County. In addition, the Gene Haas Foundation provides scholarship funds to Community Colleges and Vocational Schools for students entering technical training programs, especially machinist-based certificate and degree programs.

The Gene Haas Foundation has been a major supporter of local, Ventura County-area charities in recent years. Since its formation in 1999, the Foundation has provided more than 8.5 million dollars in grants to organizations such as The United Way, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Ventura County Food Share, American Red Cross, YMCA, Casa Pacifica, American Cancer Society, California State University Northridge, Rain Transitional Living Center,[13] Salvation Army, National MS Society, Ventura County Rescue Mission,[14] and many more.2

In 2009, the Gene Haas Foundation published the website ghaasfoundation.org.[15] The foundation has provided charitable donations[16] since 2001 including Hospice Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, Los Angeles Mission, YMCA Kids Camp, NAACP, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, MS Society, and others.

Criminal tax evasion[edit]

On the morning of June 19, 2006, Haas was arrested by IRS agents for investigation of filing false tax returns, witness intimidation, and conspiracy.[17] Four others were indicted together with Haas, and all four of the co-indicted pled guilty.

Just before Haas' case was to go to trial, a plea agreement was reached with Haas pleading guilty to felony conspiring to commit tax evasion. He was sentenced to 2 years in a federal prison and ordered to pay $75 million in restitution.

Haas was incarcerated beginning January 2008 and was released on probation May 2009 after serving 16 months of his 2 year sentence.[18][19]

References[edit]

External links[edit]