Propelling Utah's Aviation Industry
December 1, 2008
Known in the industry as a turnaround artist, Mark DeYoung thrives in situations where other executives might panic. Or at least, watch the pitch go by. “When I see a curve ball coming, I like to swing,” says DeYoung.
One particular curve ball took shape when he was tasked in 2001 to lead the acquisition of several commercial ammunition companies. Alliant Techsystems (ATK) had not previously ventured into the commercial arena, so upon acquisition, DeYoung led these companies until they gained the number one position in their respective markets, beating out giants like Remington and Federal Cartridge Company.
Today, DeYoung serves as president of ATK Armament Systems, one of three business groups of ATK, an aerospace and defense company with more than $4.5 billion in revenue.
A native of Utah, DeYoung grew up hunting pheasant and fly-fishing with his father and younger brother. A husband and father of three, he can often be found with his family exploring the outdoors—riding ATVs or snow and water skiing. But, he adds, “I really enjoy working. I’m challenged by what I do.”
DeYoung began his career in 1985 as a financial analyst at Hercules Aerospace Company. In 1994, he moved from finance to operations—a move he credits with giving him a diversity of skills. He also served as an adjunct professor at Westminster College, where he encouraged his students to do the same. “Don’t be afraid to step outside of your area of expertise,” he advised. “Take a cross-functional job and add skills to your toolbox.” He was named adjunct professor of the year in 1995.
In 1996, DeYoung joined ATK as financial manager at the company’s propellant manufacturing facility at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, Va. From there he served in various ATK roles ranging from director of business operations to director of composite programs to human resources. In 1999, he was named president of the newly formed ATK Lake City Ammunition.
DeYoung’s business philosophy includes setting achievable goals, accountability with measurable performance, data based decision-making and building the right team at the right time. He applied this philosophy in February 2008 when he played a key role in moving ATK Ammunition Systems Group’s headquarters to Clearfield. Leading by example, he convinced 15 executives to relocate their families to the Beehive State. “Having moved my family seven times in 13 years, I’d paid the price myself. They understood that the relocation was the best thing for the company.”
Forever known as a crossroads, Utah is new also the center of seven key manufacturing plants located in Missouri, Arizona and Idaho. “Utah has several really nice things,” DeYoung says. “A great educated workforce, a strong work ethic, a talented service and tech industry and, of course, Hill Air Force Base, a customer that we do about $100 million a year with.”
DeYoung believes in creating an open, honest and transparent work culture. Corporate changes, challenges and strategies are openly shared within the company, and feedback and input is encouraged from all employees.
When asked what advice he’d give to rising executives or entrepreneurs, he stressed getting the right education, making sure decisions are always based on the best outcome of the business and varying your work experience. “Leave your comfort zone; stretch your abilities. It’s served me well.”