Seven decades ago, the Jasper Corporation was founded as a contract manufacturer of residential furniture and television cabinets, with a bold vision for growth and diversification.
Since 1950, the foundation of our rich heritage and a commitment to market-focused transformation has accelerated our business into a successful future as Kimball International. Along the way, our people have demonstrated their craftsmanship, integrity, dedication, and strength. Today we are positioned to be the makers, who make so much more!
In honor of our company, our history, our roots in Jasper, and our people, we are excited to celebrate Kimball International’s 70th Anniversary.
Read our employee stories below, as we spotlight employee dedication, design and manufacturing innovation, local community involvement, and more.
Gratitude for our Employees and 70 Years of Business
As we gather with our families this week, it’s a time to reflect on our blessings and express gratitude for the people in our lives. The Executive Leadership Team is grateful for Kimball International’s 70 years of business and rich history, and the employees who have helped it grow and thrive. Two people who have cumulatively worked for Kimball International for 92 years reflect on their careers and are grateful for the opportunities they’ve enjoyed over the years.
Changes Through the Years
Mona Wagner began working for Kimball International 46 years ago as an Executive Assistant for Founder Arnold Habig and his brother Tony when the company made pianos. “Arnold had concern and love for his fellow employees.” she said. “When he had time, he would go around the factory, say ‘hello’, and talk with them. He loved his people.”
Mona reminisced on how much business has changed since she first began over four decades ago. “When I first started working, I took shorthand notes and we had file rooms,” she said. “Now everything is digital. We’ve changed phenomenally in what we do.”
Kenny Kline is another long-time manufacturing employee who has seen things change during his 46-year career. “We used to take ‘repair trips’ if something was wrong with a cabinet or dresser,” he remembered. “We’d go to the company, like a Sony cabinet factory in Tennessee, to fix it so they wouldn’t have to send it back to us.” He also enjoyed having ‘line parties’ where the entire manufacturing line would go off-site to play horseshoes, cards, and other activities to get to know each other outside of the workplace.
During this holiday season, Mona and Kenny are both taking time to reflect on the things they’re thankful for and that includes their families, friends and careers.
“I’m thankful that so far I’ve had my health and I’ve been able to come to work every day,” said Mona. “I’ve been extremely blessed to work at Kimball International. This company has been so good in letting me do what I need to do for my family. That’s a real gift for any job.”
Kenny echoed his gratefulness by saying, “Kimball International provides good benefits for us. My managers come by and thank me for my hard work. It makes me feel appreciated.”
Pride in their Work
All year long, and especially at Thanksgiving, Kimball International is thankful for the employees who devote themselves to their work each day and have helped the company reach this 70-year milestone. “There’s a certain pride working for Kimball International and there always has been,” said Mona. “To be able to work for Kimball International makes me feel proud. I feel blessed and fortunate to be here.”
70 Years of Community Investment: Giving Back
As part of the 70th Anniversary celebration, Kimball International is reflecting on the values that have helped the company grow and thrive through the years. Investment in the local community was important to the founding fathers and continues to be a priority for today’s leadership. Kimball International contributes financially to worthwhile causes in markets we serve and empowers employees to give back.
Investing in Local Communities
The Kimball International-Habig Foundation, Kimball International’s charitable giving arm, was founded by the Habig family to fund grants and programs that most directly benefit the communities where our employees live and work. Over the years, Kimball International has donated nearly $13 million to various local charities and projects and donated over $100,000 this past year.
“We’re proud to support a wide range of programs making a difference within our local communities,” said Lonnie Nicholson, Chair of the Kimball International-Habig Foundation and Kimball International’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “Within the past year, the Foundation helped fund extra-curricular programs in schools, provided scholarships for students, money for food banks, and non-profits that focus on encouraging Diversity, Education and Inclusion. Our company also makes in-kind donations of furniture to civic and non-profit organizations. We are committed to leaving a positive, lasting impact on our local communities.”
Employees Meeting Community Needs
Brandi Dodd, who works in Human Resources, is a member of the Dubois Ruritan Club, which oversees a popular local park in Dubois. In 2017, the Club identified a need for an on-site facility, so Brandi decided to step in as co-chair of development to help build a community center in the park. “We did research on what type of building would be best and then moved into raising the $500,000 needed,” she said. “We met with corporate donors, including Kimball International, to raise the majority of money.”
Within two years, the Dubois Community Park Center was built and is now being used regularly. The Dubois Ruritan Club allows organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and schools to use the building for free and in return, they help clean the park to give back.
Christopher Neu, Director of Cybersecurity, Risk & Governance, is another employee dedicating his time to improve the Jasper and the Dubois County community. He serves on the local library board and has taught Junior Achievement for 10+ years. “Kimball International sponsors Junior Achievement and they also give me flex time so I can teach high school, middle school, or elementary aged students,” Christopher said.
He also teaches business courses at the Vincennes University Jasper campus. “I’ll give students tours of the Kimball International data center and recruit my colleagues to be guest speakers.” He has recruited VU students into Kimball International’s IT internship program which gives them invaluable real-world experience while also helping develop potential future employees.
Commitment to Giving Back
Kimball International is committed to giving back to the communities where we live and serve and will continue investing in worthy causes to help make the future as bright as possible. “The goal is to improve what we have and make it better for the younger generations,” said Christopher. Brandi echoed that sentiment saying, “It feels good to give back. You can’t live in a world where you just take, you have to give back.”
An Industry Leader: Kimball International’s 70 Years of Innovation
Santa Claus, IN manufacturing facility
For over 70 years, Kimball International has created design driven furnishings that have helped customers shape spaces into places, bringing possibility to life by enabling collaboration, discovery, wellness and relaxation. Our company provides innovative products and services that excite customers, both locally and globally, and exceed their expectations of quality and enduring value. As we celebrate 70 years, innovation continues to be a centerpiece of everything we do.
Turning Spaces into Places
Design thinking is the process of understanding the user, challenging assumptions, and redefining problems to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent. Aneetha McLellan, the Executive Director of Design and Innovation, believes design thinking was instrumental in identifying a need in the marketplace, which led to the development of the new brand Interwoven, formerly Kimball Health. “The actual problem that we’re trying to solve is how to reshape and enhance the environment with product solutions,” she said. “If we take the furniture out of the equation and talk about what the problem or design challenge is, the products support the problem that we’re trying to help solve.” Aneetha thinks that design thinking within the furniture industry is revolutionary and Kimball International is a leader in the space. “We want to be the futurists of what space is about.”
A key part of Kimball International’s innovation is the way designers look at furniture and space in a different way. “When our competitors think about selling furniture, they think about selling a widget,” Aneetha said. “We look at is as an opportunity to change and reshape a problem that a client has brought to us. What can we do to enhance and improve the space and have it impact the human factor?”
Leading with Automation and Product Design
Kimball International’s innovation not only applies to design thinking through its brands but also in automation and product design. In 2017, the Santa Claus, IN plant became one of the most advanced panel processing plants in the world, by pushing the boundaries of automation and product design through driving data transformation with new and existing equipment. “Our vision was to grow capacity, improve throughput, reduce costs and maximize material utilization,” said Ron Devillez, Director of Process Engineering for Kimball International. “What we’ve done is not proprietary,” said Ron, “but it is unique.”
The next piece of innovation for the Santa Claus plant will be robotics. “We’ve put the footprint in place to invest in automation and technology to improve the throughput, reduce our costs and maximize our material utilization,” said Ron. Innovation to make the best products possible has driven Kimball International for the last 70 years and will continue to drive the company into the future. “How the things we create can impact space for the betterment and well-being of people,” said Aneetha. “That’s really what we do every day.”
70 Years of Investing in Employees:
Career Growth and Development at Kimball International
“Our people are the company.” This guiding principle has been a driving force in everything Kimball International has done for the past 70 years. Employees are the heart of Kimball International and the company is committed to investing in people through personal growth, development, and fulfillment. As part of the 70th Anniversary celebration, we are highlighting employees whose careers epitomize Kimball International’s investment in our people.
Providing Growth Opportunities
Jan Dodd, Director of Sales Operations for Kimball International’s Health business unit, was attracted to the company because of its growth potential and innovation. In her 25+ years with KII, she’s taken leadership courses that provided a foundation for her career and continue to help her every day. “I believe there are five pillars that create a strong professional: leadership, strategic thinking, creative problem solving, financial acuity and project management,” she said. “Kimball International has provided an opportunity for me to not only grow in these skills daily but also over the course of my career.”
She believes that if employees are motivated to grow and learn, Kimball International will provide opportunities to maximize their skills. “If you invest in yourself, are willing to take on a new challenge, and embrace change, this company naturally presents opportunities,” she said. “Kimball International’s done amazing things for me to grow and learn and stretch myself.”
44 Years of Dedication
Kent Reyling, a member of the Customer Experience team, has devoted his entire career to Kimball International, and after 44 years, is retiring this year. Kent started with Kimball International right out of college as an engineer and was soon asked to be a Sales Manager because his managers saw his potential. “The company is tremendous at training and giving people opportunity,” he said. “They don’t just say ‘this is all you can do’. They provide ongoing support and will help you.”
Through the years, Kent was promoted from Sales Manager to Plant Manager, and then became a Trainer. He attributes his career growth to hard work and determination, but also to the company for recognizing his talents and developing them. “We are constantly reinventing ourselves and Kimball International gives new opportunities for the people willing to take them,” he said. “People always ask how I could possibly stay with a company for 44 years. It’s easy when it’s a great company, and when it’s a company based on people.”
Investment in Leadership
Kimball International began 70 years ago as the Jasper Corporation with 30 employees and has grown to a global company of over 2,500. Even with a name change, Kimball International is still rooted in Jasper and our employees are the focus of everything the company does.
Through the execution of our Connect strategy over the last two years, we have had a key focus on our employees through broadening their skillsets and developing and growing over 110 employees who have been promoted into new opportunities across the organization. This focus on our development has enabled us to elevate several leaders to new and exciting senior level leader or VP roles. The individuals listed below, many of whom are based in Jasper, demonstrate the depth of talent in our company and will be instrumental in driving the company’s future growth.
Melissa Allen - Sr. Director, Finance Center of Excellence
Keith Beatty - Vice President, Global PMO
Chris Burkhart - Sr. Director, Global Supply Chain
Lisa Carter - Vice President, Sales, Kimball
Dennis Gerber - Vice President, Global Operations Finance and M&A
Spencer Henderson - Vice President, Sales, National
Emily Hill - Sr. Director, HR Strategy & Business Partner
Wendy Murray - Vice President, Marketing, Workplace
Jordan Richardson - Sr. Director, Strategy and Transformation
Michael Roch - Sr. Vice President, Sales, Workplace
Angie Schuch – Vice President, Product, Workplace
Wendell Sloan- Vice President, US Manufacturing
Steve Snyder - Sr. Director, IT Business Applications
Chad Wilkey - Sr. Director, Product Development, Hospitality
Employee Growth Opportunity Programs
As part of our investment in employees, we are proud to offer several growth opportunity programs including Elevate, an experiential, year-long leadership development program; SOAR, a unique women’s professional development program designed to engage, stimulate, and grow powerful leaders; and the Dubois County Leadership Academy which offers classes in leadership essentials, problem solving, public service and communications.