Honored Leader: Georgia Berner, President and CEO
Company Name: Berner International Corp.
Location: New Castle, Pa
Nature of Business: Manufacturer of air curtains and air doors.
Growth Rate (2003): 31 percent
Number of Employees: 54
Average Tenure: 20 years
Berner International is a manufacturer of air curtains and air doors. Georgia Berner, who has led the 54-employee company for 20 of its 48 years, determined early in her tenure that “people who pay mortgages, raise children, attend college, pay taxes, should not be required to park their brains at the company door.” She has created an organization that engages the minds of her workers and puts trust at the foundation of its culture. Berner has reaped the rewards of that trust. Turnover is less than 5 percent and the organization, a union shop, has been able to avoid the kind of adversarial business-labor relationship found in similar work environments. In fact, the company has an unusual agreement with its labor union. Ten years ago they signed a contract with wages and assignments determined at the discretion of the CEO. Together, Berner and her employees have managed to accomplish big things over the last few years. In late 2000 Berner made commitments to triple the size of their plant and incur significant debt, so that the company could grow. And grow it did, right through the last recession. In fact, revenues have grown 500 percent since 2000.