An Investment in Our People, Our Community, and Our Future
2021 marks the five-year anniversary of AirPro’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). To mark the occasion, we thought we’d get some background from Founder Keith White on his decision to sell the company to his employees. Watch the video above or read on to hear what he had to say.
Q: Why did you choose employee ownership over an external sale?
Keith: “Why not do it the conventional way? The answer is simple. I didn’t feel comfortable with the alternatives. I had real, legitimate offers that were coming in for the business. I needed to settle it in my own conscience because my assumption was that if I were to choose that path, then it would most likely mean the closure of this facility in this town. Employee ownership created a path to sustained and growing business here in Rhinelander.”
Q: What made you so sure the Rhinelander facility would have closed?
Keith: “From an outside perspective, Rhinelander might not seem like the optimal place to run a business. It’s not a highly-populated area. The offers were coming from established businesses headquartered elsewhere. It’s a logical assumption.”
Q: What is it about the location in Rhinelander that made you so committed?
Keith: “It’s not necessarily something unique to Rhinelander. I built the business here because it’s my home. It’s where I live. Don’t get me wrong, Rhinelander has a long and rich industrial history that we’re proud to be part of. But I built my business here because it’s my neighborhood. I stayed here – and fought to stay here – because the business became part of the fabric of the community. It was never about the money. People here were depending on us, and vice versa. That’s what makes us a family, and I wasn’t about to just sell that to the highest bidder.”
Q: How has employee ownership changed AirPro?
Keith: “It has made us stronger! Folks had heard from me pre-ESOP about how their work increased the value of the business, but now they feel it personally. The difference post-ESOP is that they have a real stake in the business that now is connected to their name. It’s a benefit and they simply appreciate that employee ownership is giving them this opportunity to participate in ways that are absolutely beneficial to them financially, and they’ve earned it.
The bottom line is that the decision wasn’t about money, but it has only accelerated the company’s success in the past five years. Now the employee-owners have the chance to continue to support the community of Rhinelander and our customers around the world.”
Hear it from Keith
Founder Keith White shares why he sold to employees instead of selling to the highest bidder in this two-minute video.