By Kate Schwenk and Audra Dilger
“What will happen to our brand, our people, and our community?” This was a question proposed by our CEO Doug Bawel several years ago when Jasper Engines & Transmissions was approached by a larger competitor to purchase the company. That question led the owners, made up of family members primarily of the Schwenk and Bawel families, to discuss the future of JASPER. They wanted to protect our people and their families, the local communities, our quality products and the name behind them. According to Doug, selling the company “just didn’t feel right.” In order to preserve what JASPER has built since 1942, based on our founder Alvin C. Ruxer’s principle, “to think a little different and work a little harder,” the owners confidently decided against selling the company and instead formed our 100% ESOP.
Since the inception of the ESOP in 2009 JASPER has seen immense growth. In 2010 we had grown to approximately $280 million in revenue and approximately 1,800 Associates nationwide. In the last six years, we have continued to grow and prosper through some strategic acquisitions that included Mac Motors Postal Parts and Weller Truck. Today we have 2,900 Associate Owners with revenue just under $600 million and our stock has grown in six years from $2.30/share to over $182.86/share. We have expanded our automotive remanufacturing facilities in Jasper and Leavenworth, IN as well as Willow Springs, MO.
In 2016, the two of us, along with six other Associates, were asked to attend the annual NCEO conference in St. Paul, MN. Our eyes were opened and we were excited to learn the significance of being a co-owner of an ESOP company. We realized many of the ideas that were discussed at the conference were already built into the JASPER culture; however, we took them for granted. We are blessed to be part of a company that cares for its Associates and continuously looks for ways to improve. Associate input is the backbone of our culture. We have over 18,000 Continuous Improvement ideas submitted by our co-owners with an 80% implementation rate. With our leadership vision and our Associate involvement, we foresee our company growth and stock price continuing to rise. Our retirement plans, which may be a ways off, are looking bright and fun. We are thrilled to be a part of JASPER during these exciting times.
Kate Schwenk is a member of JASPER Engines’ People Services Department and has been with the company for four years. Audra Dilger is a member of the Insides Sales Department and has been with the company for 17 years.