When Tower Automotive Inc. went public in August 1994, it was a $167 million company whose origins dated back to 1874. It began as R. J. Tower Corp., a small machine shop that made and repaired metal tools for farmers. Today it's a $2.2 billion manufacturer of structural components and assemblies for the auto industry and one of the industry's fastest-growing firms in both revenues and profits. Since 1996 sales have skyrocketed from $400 million to $2.2 billion -- a 443% jump. That's the second-best three-year revenue growth among auto companies on the IW 1000. During the same time frame, Tower's profits have jumped sixfold -- from $21 million to $129 million. The last two years Tower has been among the top 12 in profit margin in the auto industry, placing sixth last year and 11th this year, with its best profit margin yet, 6.2%. Since his arrival in 1993 President and CEO Dugald K. Campbell has led the company -- whose operating offices are in Grand Rapids, Mich., and corporate offices are in Minneapolis -- on a global spending spree. It has acquired all or part of automotive frames/structural components or assemblies manufacturers in Mexico, Brazil, Korea, and Germany. But Active Tool & Manufacturing Co. Inc., acquired last July, may have been its most critical acquisition to date. Active's tandem press capabilities will allow Tower to combine Active's products and its own into modules that Tower can supply to automakers.

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