Joe Sanders has been with Ozinga a long time, having started with the concrete company as a dispatcher in 1996, and he’s been moving up ever since. Even before his time with Ozinga, he worked for the family concrete company that would be purchased by Ozinga in ‘83. He spent time dispatching trucks and taking orders from customers and then went on to plant management and then sales and back to dispatch. With all that history, he’s no stranger to the world of concrete.
A year ago, he was promoted to Executive VP and, on June 1st, he made the transition to head the Ozinga's ready mix operation in Indiana. He is taking on a position previously held by Don Rapley, who is now the Vice President of Business Development for Ozinga Materials & Logistics, and held the role for 27 years.
“I love everything about this company. We have such a good team of people and so many good people in place. The place runs itself in terms of: everybody knows their job, everybody does their job well. Really good examples of teamwork here,” explained Sanders.
Ozinga is a fourth generation family owned company, a rare feat indeed. The fact that they have lasted this long and not only survived, but thrived, is a testament to the work culture they have fostered for their employees.
“The culture at Ozinga has always been about family. They walk the walk with that in terms of their people. It’s a values-based organization and people make up the team. Anybody could buy trucks and buildings and make concrete, but you have to have good people - and they support us wholeheartedly. It’s really a family oriented business. It’s very reassuring to be able to work for a family like this, they love to be in the community, and be active in the community,” said Sanders of his passion for the job.
Indeed, Ozinga is a family run company and they view their employees as part of that family. The company fosters healthy relationships and knows the value of healthy employees, both in body and in their relationships at work. These policies help to maintain an overall healthy company. These are values that Ozinga has always stressed, and something Sanders feels they have long been ahead of the curve on.
“Corporations are trending to be more values-based, to take good care of their people. The Ozingas have had that philosophy since 1928. They're ahead of the curve on that,” said Sanders.
Sanders has lived in Crown Point for the past 30 years, and was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. When it comes to Northwest Indiana, he sees some of those same values in Ozinga present in the Region.
“We have good weather, if you can handle a little winter and the humidity, we don’t have earthquakes, we have a huge body of fresh water at our disposal and also it’s the people. The Midwest values, I’d put them up against anybody. We’re always referred to as flyover country, but it’s just good, sensible people,” said Sanders.
When he gets some free time he likes to enjoy the plethora of food in Northwest Indiana, be it Croatian, Mexican, Italian or Indian. He also loves to read history, and is currently reading a book about the battle of Guadalcanal, being the son of a Pacific Theater veteran.
At work, Sanders’ primary function, as he sees it, is to make sure his people have the tools to do their jobs correctly and effectively.
“I try to support them as best I can. I’m not a micromanager, and I’ve always felt if you put the right person in the right job, they’ll handle it. I just really try to support the cast and crew with what they’ve got going on day to day,” explained Sanders.
As for what has kept him in the industry for almost 25 years, Sanders credits two things: the people and the product as his prime motivators.
“It is the people, it really is. The friendships and the colleagues I have here, it really is the relationships. Secondly, I am still fascinated with the products we make, ever since I was a little kid. Sand and stone and cement and water are put together and we make one of the most used products in the world and one of the most incredible products,” said Sanders earnestly.
With usage of concrete going back thousands of years to Ancient Rome, where volcanic ash was used to build incredible structures like the Pantheon, Sanders takes pride in being in an industry that spans the ages and is so widely used for a great variety of purposes.
“It comes out of the truck, we call it the plastic state, where it's wet and it rolls and can be formed and molded and it hardens and it can hold up skyscrapers or you can drive your car across it. It’s just a fascinating product to produce and see all of the jobs that we’ve done,” said Sanders.