Fleetwood Earns Holland Honor

October 13, 2006
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HOLLAND — With a unique and successful business behind him, 2006 Holland Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year award winner Doug Ruch said he hopes the recognition will inspire others to look at the company’s culture.

As president and CEO of Fleetwood Group Inc., Ruch embraces the company’s two unique characteristics of being an Employee Stock Ownership Plan company as well as a “Christ-centered business.”

“Getting an opportunity to share that model could be inspiring to others,” he said.

The unique model, as well as diversifying the product lines from mobile classroom furniture and tables to electronics used in the classroom and workplace, has helped Fleetwood to grow into a $28 million company with 141 owners.

For the past 51 years, Ruch said, Fleetwood Group has had the goal of providing funding to Christian missions, as originated by company founder Norwood Hubbell. During that time, the company has donated more than $6 million to charities.

As part of the company’s dedication to the whole person — mind, body and spirit — Ruch said they are focused on safety, tuition reimbursement and participation while also offering such amenities as a chaplain and emergency loans.

Fleetwood has also gained commitment from employees by giving them ownership of the company. In 1972, Hubbell gave 45 percent of the business to eight key employees, and by 1975, the company had become an ESOP company. In 1998, the sole owner of the company had become the stock plan, with more than $7 million contributed to the plan over the lifetime of the company.

Ruch said the average seniority of employees is 11 years, and the average balance in the ESOP is $85,000.

Ruch said the employee-owners will be pleased.

“It’s an honor to receive the award, particularly in a community with such strong businesses as Holland,” he said. “I hope they’ll be proud of me as a leader of the company.”

Ned Timmer, chairman of the Small Business Person of the Year Award committee and president of T2 Communications, said it was a difficult year to choose a winner.

“We’ll have contenders or winners in our back pockets for years to come,” he said.

Timmer said Ruch stood out because of his humbleness, willingness to be a team player, and the example that the business sets for diversifying products.

“We’re just very glad that we have them here in Holland and wish them the best of luck in the future.”

Fleetwood has also been honored as the ESOP Association Michigan 2006 Company of the Year and the ESOP Association National 2006 Company of the Year.    

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