Employee Ownership Gets Van Meter Noticed

Van Meter Industrial Inc. (VMI), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been an employee-owned company since the early 1990s, but the electrical and industrial products distributor received some notice earlier this year when it was featured in an article on ESOPs in The Wall Street Journal and later named the 2008 Company of the Year by an ESOP Association.

The Journal article, titled “How to Get Workers to Think and Act Like Owners,” written by Simona Covel, explores a turning point when company executives realized that the benefits of being an employee owner were lost on many at VMI.

“Many employees didn't know what stock was, didn't know what an [employee] owner was. I made the mistake of thinking that everyone thinks like me,” Mick Slinger, the company's chief financial officer, recalls.

VMI worked to change the perspective of employees, which led them to take more interest in the company's increasing stock value and the efforts they could make individually to grow that value.

The success of those efforts was also recognized when VMI was named 2008 Company of the Year by the Iowa-Nebraska Chapter of the ESOP Association. The ESOP Company of the Year award is given to a company that demonstrates commitment to employee ownership, as evidenced by its involvement with The ESOP Association and its programs, as well as through its communications with employees and commitment to association values of employee participation, wealth creation, and individual dignity.

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