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 Business > Manufacturing

 
2390 Blackhawk Road | Rockford, IL 61109 | www.bergstrominc.com
 
   
 

HISTORY

In 1949, when Adolph G. Bergstrom founded a company to produce heaters for commercial vehicles, there was no way of knowing his small, home-based company in Rockford, Illinois would evolve into a worldwide industry leader.

The company, Bergstrom Manufacturing Co., quickly set up shop in a warehouse located in an alley between East State and Market Streets. It remained there until 1971 when it relocated to its current global headquarters on Blackhawk Road, the property being part of the former Camp Grant.

Heaters for the commercial vehicle (trucks, bus, construction and agricultural machines, military equipment and specialty vehicles) industry were Bergstrom’s main product from 1949 until 1966. Then the company started to design and produce combination heating and air conditioning units for trucks. Other markets soon followed.

Rockford’s Midwest location was ideal for Bergstrom’s largest customers, who were mainly located in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Arkansas, and North Carolina. “In the 1980s, one of Bergstrom’s global customers asked us to build product for them in Europe,” says Dave Rydell, Chairman of Bergstrom. “That led to us opening a production facility in the United Kingdom in 1989. That was the beginning of the globalization of the marketplace for Bergstrom. Ten years later Bergstrom began producing product for the Asian marketplace at a new facility in China and in 2013 acquired a company in Spain. Current employment is around 1,700 people globally. The company also has joint ventures or partnerships in India, Turkey, and Brazil. “Today large global customers most often want us to produce product wherever they are located,” Rydell says.

The driving force for Bergstrom has always been to produce state of the art quality products delivered on time. It is also a company principle to have clean, safe, and well-lit production areas in all facilities.

Also essential, team members are expected to follow the Bergstrom Code of Conduct which encourages positive attitude, respect and integrity. Proper training and education to perform jobs to the best of one’s ability is another priority. In 1995, Bergstrom developed a “mastery” program that enables hourly team members to become masters at what they do, learn more about the company, its products, and its customers. When a person becomes a “master” they receive an increase in compensation. This program is administered in Bergstrom facilities globally and has been very important to the success of the company.

Innovation is also significant to Bergstrom’s on-going success. In 1995, the company began developing no-idle HVAC systems for sleeper cabs, and 10 years later the battery-powered NITE (No-Idle Thermal ­Environment) system revolutionized the market.

“We’ll continue to improve our ­no-idle products, and we’ll develop more sophisticated products,” ­Rydell says, “like climate control systems that send alerts before failing.” And thanks to its overseas operations, Bergstrom is expanding product offerings. “We supply various types of products that we can’t build in the States because the capabilities aren’t here, and it would be too costly. So China is opening up new markets to us in the United States—and globally—that aren’t related to heating and air-conditioning.”

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Approximately 45 years ago Elvin Rydell, then President of Bergstrom and partner with Adolph Bergstrom, founded the Bergstrom Inc. Charitable Foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to share a portion of its profits, mainly with the greater Rockford community. Rydell says, “There are many wonderful not for profits that make Rockford a much better place to live; it is very important to Bergstrom that they are ­supported. These organizations might help people in need, provide wonderful education or medical services, or they may be in the arts which so much enriches our community.”

Bergstrom encourages its team members to get involved in the community and donate their time to worthy causes. As of this writing many Bergstrom team members are involved in the Transform Rockford initiative as well as supporting, and oftentimes becoming a board ­member of a local not for profit ­organization.

Bergstrom’s commitment to the community goes beyond the Foundation’s efforts. In 2015 the company (along with the Salvation Army of Winnebago County) presented as a gift to the community, Stars & Stripes: A Salute to our Veterans, a free event featuring guest speaker General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Rockford Symphony Orchestra, The Mendelssohn Chorale, and Emily Bear; approximately 5,000 people attended, including 1,500 veterans.

The same year, the company ­underscored its dedication to ­education by becoming the title sponsor of The Bergstrom Stateline Quiz Bowl, a weekly television show produced by WTVO/WQRF, where academic scholars from across the region vie for a scholarship to ­Northern Illinois University and ­internships at Bergstrom.

“We are very happy with the way the “Bowl” has shown off the ­academic side of our students,” says Rydell. “Our hope for this program is that it will encourage all students to obtain a great education, graduate from high school, and hopefully many will make the decision to go on to college.”