You could call Wayne Ferguson the man of steel.

Some 20 years ago, Ferguson started his specialty stainless steel company with just five employees working in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse. Today, Ferguson Metals employs 66 inside a gleaming office and 68,000-square-foot warehouse in Hamilton.

While Ferguson credits hard work and a dedicated staff for his success, he contends the vital factor is to always take advantage of opportunities and do everything possible with them. "You can't relax, you can't stand still, for if you try to stand still, you actually find yourself going backward," he says. "Moving forward is the only answer."

Ferguson's opportunities have never come easily. The son of an assembly-line worker with four children, Ferguson started out at 19 as a mail clerk for Eastern Stain-less Steel and worked his way up to salesman. By 25, he was managing the Midwest branch of Ad-vanced Alloys Inc. In 1979, Ferg-uson decided that he wanted to raise his children in a place like Greater Cincinnati and moved to Hidden Valley Lake in Indiana, where he lives today. What Ferg-uson calls his big opportunity came a few years later in the form of news that most would find devastating: In two days, the company he had worked at for years was filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

That's when Ferguson decided it was time to pursue his long-time dream. He went home and told his wife and three children that he was going to start his own company the next week. "I had done it before for others, now was the time to do it for myself," Ferguson says. Taking a huge risk but refusing to let the possibility of failure hinder him, Ferguson sold everything he could to raise the money he needed, including his beloved 1966 Cor-vette Roadster, which he's convinced is what persuaded the bank to give him a loan. Ferguson did not look back, saying, "It is necessary to make sacrifices for the opportunity you have been given."

Ferguson Metals has prospered by providing quality stainless steel and nickel-based "high-temperature" alloys for specific applications. The company can provide the materials in almost any gauge and is capable of slitting, edging, shearing, and leveling the metal on site. It has expanded its market from what was first primarily aerospace to chemicals and petrochemicals, electronics, automotive, and other commercial applications.

Recognizing the importance of taking opportunities, Ferguson does as much as he can to pass them on to his community and his employees.

Kenny Craig, CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, notes that along with being a successful entrepreneur, "Wayne Ferguson is committed to improving his community by getting involved." Ferguson provides opportunities to others by working closely with Miami University's Hamilton campus, contributing to the Ohio Reads program, and running programs to support local members of the armed services and their families. Ferguson also provides a minimum of 20 hours of education and training for his employees and often offers tuition assistance up to $25,000 a year for continued education.

"It's really been a pleasure working with Wayne Ferguson over the years," says Kathleen Weber, director of the Contin-uing Education and Business & Industry Center at Miami University's Hamilton campus. "Our partnership is productive. Upgrading the skills of his employees benefits the entire community."

Ferguson takes great pride in his team and his factory. The number of days without a "lost-time accident" is posted prominently, currently around 800 days, which is impressive considering how sharp the steel is. He consults his workers before making decisions and provides recognition for employees in the Extra Mile Club.

Ferguson Metals was recently named a recipient of the Ohio Award for "Excellence Level 2: Commitment to Excellence." The company has set a goal to reach Level 4.