photo above: (from left) Andrew Carnes, Vice President of Economic Development, Gwinnett Partnership; Brent Shadix, VP for Human Resources, WIKA USA
Partnership Gwinnett and Gwinnett Technical College selected WIKA USA as Large Manufacturer of the Year for 2021, an honor that recognizes the company’s numerous contributions to the county’s economic well-being.
When Georgia Power wanted to nominate WIKA USA for the 2021 Movers & Makers Manufacturing and Supply Chain Awards, Brent Shadix, VP for Human Resources, was happy to go through the process. So was Drew Firestone, VP of Strategy and Marketing. But they didn’t think the company would win, as the competition was stiff. Thus, they were pleasantly surprised when WIKA was selected as a finalist for the Large Manufacturers (200+ employees) of the Year category.
“Just getting this far was an honor,” Drew said. “We were up against 14 other excellent companies.”
Hats Off to WIKA Workers
On March 25, Brent intended to simply attend the awards ceremony, enjoy a sit-down breakfast, and listen to a keynote speech by the CEO of Waffle House. That’s why he was not prepared to see his face on the promotional video WIKA had submitted – part of the nomination process – pop up on the screen.
At first he was stunned. As the video clip played, he alternately felt humbled and proud, thinking of who were actually responsible for the honor.
“Our 800-plus employees are the ones who make us who we are,” Brent said. “They are the ones who are committed to not only the community, but to our customers.” Indeed, the theme that morning was the importance of employees, especially those workers who kept essential businesses operating during the pandemic. (In 2020, WIKA USA made pressure transducers for anesthesia machines, pressure gauges for oxygen manifolds, and pressure sensors for ventilators.)
Todd Gardner, President and Head of Americas at WIKA Group, concurred. “The past year has been tough for everyone, and I really have to take my hat off to our employees, who were there every day and did what had to be done. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Corporate Citizenship Begins in the Community
Drew reflected on why WIKA was chosen for this honor. “We are a well-rounded employer, not just in a business sense of good pay and benefits, but also corporate involvement.”
WIKA works closely with Gwinnett Technical College, a three-minute drive from the Lawrenceville headquarters. “We have a wonderful relationship, creating programs together not only in welding and such, but also in management,” Brent said. “Their business students study our lean manufacturing and Kaizen approach – I call it WIKA-tizing – and the college helps us tremendously with customer-service training.” The company also benefits from close ties with Georgia Gwinnett College, the alma mater of WIKA USA’s two graduate trainees.
A Winning Employer
Each nominated company was judged on the following nine criteria: economic impact in the region, innovation, operational history, community involvement, educational partnership, environmental/safety efforts, work-life balance, employee education, and employee recognition programs. WIKA received high marks in all areas.
The nomination text summarizes the company’s prominent role in the community: “It’s not surprising that Zippia.com named WIKA USA as the #1 Top Overall company to work for in Lawrenceville. It is a family-owned company, and many employees speak of the caring ambiance. It is diverse: First-generation immigrants make up a sizable portion of their workforce. WIKA is a respected, innovative manufacturer that contributes to Gwinnett County’s economic wealth. That is why Georgia Power is proud to nominate them for the 2021 Movers & Makers Award.”