Career shifts into high gear for CWU mechanical engineering alum

  • January 29, 2024
  • David Leder

It was June of 2005, and Matt Jones needed a job. 

Commencement day was fast approaching, and the CWU mechanical engineering specialist didn’t have any solid leads yet. All he knew was that he wanted to work in the automotive industry. 

One day, Jones’s mentor, former Professor Dr. Craig Johnson, told him about a possible entry-level position in Fife, just down the road from his hometown of Kent.  

“Dr. Johnson got a call from a businessman in Fife who needed an engineer that was interested in cars,” Jones said. “He told him, ‘there’s this one kid,’ and then I got a call asking me if I wanted to come in for an interview. Almost 20 years later, I’m still here.” 

Jones went to work for Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) a few weeks after graduation, designing frames and suspensions for classic cars. The company, founded by Morrison in 1971, specializes in modern chassis and suspensions for older cars, which enable them to drive like they’re brand new. 

It wasn’t long before Jones was promoted to lead designer, lead engineer, and operations manager. After excelling at every opportunity along the way, he received his most significant promotion last year. 

The one-time entry-level engineer is now the owner and president of Art Morrison Enterprises.  

matt-lisa-jones-4.jpg“Art couldn’t bear the idea of seeing the company he built get torn apart by a big corporation,” said Jones, who officially took over the reins from the now-retired Morrison in July 2022. “He knew he would either have to sell to a big capital interest group or find someone to take over, so he approached me and asked what I thought.” 


Jones discussed the idea with his wife, Lisa, and they agreed to move ahead with the proposal. 

“I’m financially conservative, so the thought of borrowing a bunch of money to buy the business was a really hard decision,” he said. “But I just couldn’t let this place go. It’s part of me.” 

In early 2022, the couple began the painstaking process of securing a loan from the federal Small Business Administration. They managed to jump through all the required hoops and completed the purchase just in time—literally. 

At the very moment Jones was signing on the dotted line, Morrison was considering an even more lucrative offer from a large national conglomerate. 

“The timing couldn’t have been any better,” Jones said. “Just as Art was going to make the announcement to our employees about me taking over, he got a call to discuss another offer. No one knew for sure what he was going to do, but, in the end, he really wanted me to have it. That’s just the type of guy he is.” 

Jones explained that Morrison could have sold AME for “twice as much,” but after putting his heart and soul into the business for 52 years, Morrison wanted to make sure it remained under local control.  

AME’s corporate competitors often buy mom-and-pop businesses and streamline them to maximize profitability. If Morrison sold to a national conglomerate, he feared AME would become another casualty of corporate consolidation. 

“Art didn’t want to see us go in that direction,” Jones said. 

Needless to say, the 50 AME employees were overjoyed that one of their own was going to be their new boss. Jones is proud to report that the business is exactly the way it was when Morrison retired, with all of same people and all of the same products. 

“We’re like a family here, and I couldn’t be happier with how things have gone,” he said. 

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Family First 

That family-first approach ended up being a significant incentive for Lisa Jones to join the Art Morrison Enterprises team. The 2004 CWU public relations alumna left her longtime restaurant industry job last spring to become the company’s marketing manager and media relations specialist.  

Her primary responsibilities include placing news stories in industry publications, designing ads and buying ad space, assigning quote requests to the sales team, and managing the company’s social media accounts.  

“Coming to work here just seemed like a natural fit because I’ve been immersed in the world of classic cars since I was a teenager,” said Lisa, who started dating her now-husband when they were 15 years old. “Matt has always been interested in cars, so it sort of became my hobby, too.” 

Lisa explained that her recent career move was also a good opportunity to align her schedule with Matt’s so they could both be around for their two daughters, ages 14 and 9. 

“Working for the same company allows us to focus more on our family,” she said. “We used to have trouble synching up our calendars when Matt was traveling to car shows. This way, we’re both on the same page. It’s worked out great so far.” 

Lisa noted that the family-oriented nature of AME has had the side benefit of breathing new life into her career. In particular, she likes that AME focuses on its builders and customers on social media instead of touting its own successes. 

“We want to put the spotlight on our customers, rather than always prospecting,” she said. “It’s the people who make our company what it is, but it’s also the people who use our products. They’re the reason we do what we do.” 

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Lifelong Passion 

It’s no wonder Matt Jones has embraced his new role as owner and president of a car company. Ever since his childhood in South King County, classic cars have been his passion.  

Now, at age 40, he’s living the dream. 

“I’ve always been a car guy, since I was a little kid,” Matt said. “My grandfather was a drag racer in the 1950s and I would go hang out at the garage with him and his friends. It was kind of a treat for me, at 10 or 11 years old, to talk cars with these guys who were in their 70s. They were local legends back in the day, and I really looked up to them.” 

As one might expect, Matt went on to become a drag racer at Pacific Raceways in Kent—formerly Seattle International Raceway—during his younger days. However, once he became a family man, he decided to hang up his helmet. 

“When I had kids, it was time for me to stop,” he said. “Drag racing was too risky, and it was also really expensive. I had a ton of fun, and I’d probably do it again. But, now, I’m focused more on my family and my business.” 

matt-lisa-jones-3.jpgSince taking over Art Morrison Enterprises, Matt and his team have identified some key areas for growth in the increasingly competitive world of classic cars. With customers around the world—including Germany, Japan, France, Sweden, South Africa, Puerto Rico, and the Middle East—he understands the need to amplify AME’s niche in the international marketplace.  


The company’s leadership believes there is still plenty of room to grow if they focus on a top-notch website, artmorrison.com, strong digital advertising, and an engaging social media presence. 

“Our goal is to keep growing,” Matt said. “Our main priority right now is to get out of five separate buildings. We just need to keep expanding our profit line, and eventually we’ll get to the point where we can move all of our operations into one single facility.” 

AME is currently looking to increase its presence in the four-wheel-drive arena by diversifying its Ford, Chevrolet, and Jeep product lines. The company is also looking to expand its selection of Mopar parts and accessories. This fall, AME is releasing a new bolt-in Mopar part that it believes could revolutionize the industry. 

“I think we’re just getting started,” Lisa said. “When you look at where the industry is heading, you have to stay on top of the latest products and trends. You have to develop new products if you want to stay relevant, and I think we’re doing a good job of branching out beyond what we’ve traditionally done.” 

No matter where their journey takes them, the Joneses are grateful for the opportunity to lead a well-established family business like AME into a new era. 

The couple has been around long enough to know what works—and what doesn’t—yet they’re young enough to create their own identity in the fast-paced world of classic car rebuilds. 

“I’m so proud of what Matt has accomplished so far,” Lisa said. “He’s an incredibly hard worker and he’s very honest—someone who other people can look up to. He’s a genuinely good person and role model, and it’s going to be fun to see where this company goes under his leadership.” 

•••••

This story appears in the latest edition of Crimson & Black magazine, CWU's twice-yearly publication.

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