John (Chip) and Nancy Keough became supporters of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy after seeing the benefits free markets can bring to one’s life. The Ann Arbor residents also have a passion for helping students get hands-on experience in engineering and the trades.
Raised in Southeast Michigan, Chip has always called the Great Lakes State his home. He attended the University of Michigan, where he studied Mechanical Engineering as well as Materials and Metallurgical Engineering.
After graduation in 1977, Chip worked for various companies, including General Motors and TRW, but in 1984 he went into business with his brother William M. (Bill) Keough at Atmosphere Group and founded a new division, Applied Process Inc. Atmosphere Group had been founded in Detroit in 1962 by the Keough’s father, William R. (Bob) Keough. In 1993 Chip spun AP out of the family business and grew it to include, among others, locations in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as licensees and plants in four foreign countries. Chip sold the business in 2019. He continues to serve as a consultant to the new owners, Aalberts Surface Technologies, and directs the efforts of another family firm, Keough Ventures LLC, a Michigan-based, venture capital firm that is investing in what’s next.
As a way to continue his passion for the art of metal casting, Chip operates Joyworks Studio out of a garage on their property in Ann Arbor Township. The studio, which he calls an “expensive hobby,” keeps several interns busy researching, designing and inventing new things related to metals Chip appreciates the chance to give students real experience, and he enjoys working on what he loves in his own backyard.
Joyworks led to another startup, Lightspeed Concepts, which works to create manufacturing processes for lean and lightweight metal products. Its staff all hail from the University of Michigan, including engineering students who serve as interns.
Chip has other ties to U-M as well, with positions on its Materials Science and Engineering External Advisory Board as well as the Michigan Materials Research Institute Advisory Board. On top of this, he is an adjunct professor of Materials Science and Engineering at U-M.
When Chip was young, his father (raised on a farm and with an engineering degree earned at night school) started his own business, an act that Chip credits for his belief in free markets. It also helped him appreciate the value of hard work, which he acted on by starting his own lawnmowing business and choosing work over school sports.
Chip feels that the best way to live and prosper is through capitalism, charity and the Golden Rule. Along with Nancy and their three children, he established the Keough Family Foundation, whose mission is “creating opportunities for individuals and organizations which foster creative thinking, leadership and self-reliance.” KFF currently supports over twenty causes; everything from the local Shop Rat Foundation, to student engineering and architecture activities funds at U-M, to the ASM Materials Camps for Teachers and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Chip first turned to the Mackinac Center as he was working to take his company out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In his search to find groups advocating small government and free-enterprise solutions, he stumbled upon the Mackinac Center. He’s been a supporter ever since, because Mackinac experts “not only identify the deficiencies in the system, but research and offer practical, real-world solutions to the challenges.”
Chip believes Michigan’s natural resources give the state a unique advantage. “With the right regulations, the right tax structure, and freedom to work, we can see immense success in our state.” He testifies that the Mackinac Center is a champion of policies that can reduce the burden government places on people and businesses, freeing us all to prosper and live to our full potential.