Bill Burke has been in town for only a few weeks as the new president and chief operating officer of Nordenia USA, but he already has picked up a few of the quirky nuances of the area.
He demonstrated that last week when asked if he's found a house yet.
"I haven't had time to even look," he said. "And I'm not going to step into 'Is it going to be in Cape or is it going to be in Jackson?' Don't even ask."
So Burke's already aware of the friendly rivalry between Cape Girardeau and Jackson. Good for him.
But the 52-year-old Chicago native admits he has a lot to learn -- and he's most interested in finding out about his new place of employment.
Burke is taking over the North American packaging manufacturing operations of Nordenia International, a worldwide manufacturer of flexible packaging, technical plastics film material and products components.
The local plant, which has about 350 employees, has some 100 or so clients, making packages for their thousands of products, including Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods, Always feminine hygiene products, Schultz and other large frozen foods customers. He said he has spent his first few weeks meeting customers and employees.
Burke is new to Nordenia, but has 25 years of experience in packaging. After getting a degree in economics, Burke started as a foreman working the night shift for White Cap, a global packaging company. He later got his MBA from the University of Illinois.
After remarkably rising to president and CEO of that company (he attributes it to hard work and lots of help), he oversaw production and operations of five plants as well as sales, marketing and budgeting.
Later, he worked for Schmalbach-Lubeca, a German-based packaging company and most recently as president and CEO of Specialty Packaging Group, which made jars for cosmetics, as well as eyeliner and lip-liner pencils for Procter & Gamble.
'Burke stood out'
The experience impressed the decision-makers at Nordenia.
"The reason why Bill Burke stood out was his extensive experience in the flexible packaging industry, of approximately 25 years," said Jim Ostergaard, director of human resources and information technology at Nordenia. "He also has a record of making companies successful."
Ostergaard said that they were also impressed with his management style.
"He's a team-builder," he said. "He has a style of empowerment. All of those things were impressive and made Bill stand out from all the other candidates."
On May 1, Burke officially took over at Nordenia, replacing Paul Wiedlin, who left in December. Burke said he brings a collaborative style of leadership.
"I like to work with people at all levels," he said. "I like to involve others with the business, all of which helps keep the focus on the customer."
Burke said he has plans to help grow the business and some plans that aren't ready to be announced yet.
"We have plans for growth, let's put it that way," Burke said, with a slight Chicago accent.
Burke said he wanted the job at Nordenia for several reasons.
"Nordenia has a couple really good values it brings to the market," he said. "We're fully integrated. We make our own film and then print it, laminate it and convert it. We have all of our own operations. We really do very good quality -- the best in the U.S. and maybe the world."
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