MillerCoors celebrates 25 years in Butler County this year and long-time employees say it’s managed to be more than just an economic boon.
It’s like family.
The company opted in 1991 to locate on 1,056 acres in St. Clair Twp. because of easy access to highways, water and a skilled workforce, company officials said.
The brewery started small with 162 employees and grew over the decades to its current staff of 550 with a payroll and benefits of $76 million.
Despite the passage of so many years, 77 of the original 162 employees still work there.
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“We think that’s a huge testament,” said Denise Quinn, plant manager, during an anniversary celebration Thursday at the facility. “A testament to their commitment and their work ethic and passion for their jobs and certainly we’re very thankful for that. Most that aren’t (here) … it’s pretty much retirement, which we’re really excited about that they’ve had that opportunity.”
Now the company is one of the largest employers in Butler County. Last year, employees produced close to 9.4 million barrels of beer for approximately 64 brands at the facility, the second largest brewery in Ohio and the second largest producer of eight breweries for MillerCoors.
Steve Switzer, customer service and supply manager, said he applied for a position with the company in 1991 after seeing a newspaper advertisement.
“There was about 50,000 people that applied to that and I feel fortunate to be one of the 162 that was hired,” he said.
From the get-go, the company fostered the idea of working as a team to not only learn and grow together, but to overcome obstacles, like being on a team of 11 where only two knew how to drive a forklift.
“We thought ‘What the heck are they thinking? They hired the wrong people,’” he said. “Miller really knew what they were doing though. They were looking for a diverse group of people that were going to apply life experiences.”
Employee retention, in general, remains high. The company only has a turnover rate of just two percent. A competitive benefits package is a factor, as is MillerCoors’ company culture, said spokesman Martin Maloney.
“We’ve created a culture in Trenton where we lead manage and make decisions at the right level, meaning we allow employees to own and manage their day-to-day business and support them in doing so,” he said.
Tammie Spence, of Dayton, a senior administrative assistant, said she’s worked in many roles during her 25 years with the company, roles that have allowed her to come in contact with every person hired by the brewery, as well as many visitors.
“As they’re taking tours or walking down the hall, they say they’ve never seen so many people speak to them and say hello to them and ask them how they’re doing,” she said. “Everyone here is just so friendly and it’s a wonderful environment.”
Oxford resident Kathy Robinson, a production services analyst, agreed, saying, “when you’re part of a team, whatever you do does affect someone else.”
“Even with the stress that you have here with your job, the people here are just so good and so nice,” she said. “You have different personalities here but everyone just gets along. That’s the culture that we built and it just kind of stuck. Now we’re seeing an influx of new employees, so it’s up to us to instill that.”
Despite economic hard times that diminished or decimated the staffing levels of other companies, MillerCoors Trenton Brewery has operated without a single layoff, something almost unheard in the industry, Quinn said.
“Somebody from our international unit was telling me that they believe we may be the only UAW members that have never lost a day’s pay in the last 25 years,” said John Holub, of Franklin, a 23-year employee who serves as chairman for UAW Local 2308.
That’s helped solidify the relationship between the company and the union, which Holub described as “second to none,” and bolster the one between management and employees.
“They believe in their workers through the self-directed work teams and all the training they put us through,” he said. “There really isn’t much direct supervision. They’re really there for a resource if there’s something we can’t resolved as a team or we need the managers to search something for us, maybe some new innovations or technologies or a new design of something.”
Jeff Potts, of Morrow, a maintenance planner/controller who has worked for the company since it opened also serves as president of the local UAW. He said workers appreciate the MillerCoors’ flexibility when it comes to the ability to swap shifts or “unschedule” oneself throughout the week after multiple consecutive work days without it counting against attendance.
But Potts, like each employee the Journal-News interviewed, returned to the idea of the brewery being a work environment that feels like family.
“One of the comments from the new hires was that people come by and the first thing they’ll say is ‘Work safe. Have a safe night,’” Potts said. “We really care about each other. We’re are our brother’s keeper.”
Besides being good to its employees and contributing millions of dollars to the township and county economy, MillerCoors strives to be good to the community via economic empowerment initiatives, civic leadership and environmental stewardship, Quinn said.
“We were the first of the MillerCoors breweries to achieve landfill-free status, which we reached in 2009,” she said. “(That) was really about our employees taking the initiative, our technicians really driving that as a grassroots initiative.”