Bob Stander

April 30, 2002
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HOLLAND — He could have looked for work at another large company.

But Bob Stander didn't want the corporate bureaucracy, the outsourcing and periodic downsizing and "right-sizing" that come with a big company. So he opted to join a small company that he can help build and lead into the future and put to work his experience in manufacturing, operations and product development.

"I like to build things. All I see ahead of us is growth, and I like that," said Stander, the chief operating officer for Concept Industries Inc. in Grand Rapids, a maker of corrugated products for the automotive, furniture, medical and recreation industries.

The 48-year-old Stander joined Concept Industries in October, seven months after leaving Johnson Controls Inc. in Holland as vice president of overhead systems products in North America. Stander worked for 21 years in a variety of executive positions at Johnson Controls and Prince Corp., which Johnson Controls bought in 1996 for $1.3 billion.

Drawing Stander to Concept Industries was not only its potential for growth, but the chance to work again in a corporate culture that he sees as mirroring that of the former Prince Corp., which was renowned for its employee participation and empowerment and adhered to a philosophy of "hire for attitude, train for aptitude."

He likes the Concept Industries' diverse workforce of about 150 people and the company's commitment to its employees and community involvement.

"How we do business is as important to me as becoming part of a company and what is done there," Stander said. "When I come to work I'm the same guy.

"We want people to come to work here and feel like a winner," he said.

A Grand Rapids native, Stander started his career at Prince in 1979 as production supervisor. He rose through the ranks over the years, as Prince became a premier supplier to the automotive industry in the 1980s and grew into the Holland area's largest employer. His positions include serving as vice president of manufacturing at Prince, and later at Johnson Controls as general manager and vice president of interiors for North America.

"It was time to go. It was a good run," Stander said of his departure from Johnson Controls.

Among the projects he handled at Prince was launching the company's headliner division, known as Interior Technologies, in 1989. Years later, under Johnson Controls, the division was sold to Shawn Eshragh, the founder and chairman of Concept Industries, a supplier of Prince Corp. and Johnson Controls.

When Stander left Johnson Controls last March, he was contacted by Eshragh. But Stander wasn't yet interested in moving directly into a new job, preferring instead to take some time off and undertake a careful review of his career options.

Eshragh called or e-mailed him periodically over the summer. Come fall, Stander decided to sit down and talk. He found what Eshragh and Concept Industries had to offer to his liking, particularly the potential that lay ahead for the company.

"It just seemed like kind of a fun thing to do," said Stander, who as COO handles the day-to-day operations of Concept Industries. "We're preparing for growth here."

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