PhillyInc: A smart move, from the heartland to Phila. area

A Gardner Denver compressor, as seen on the company's website.
A Gardner Denver compressor, as seen on the company's website.
Posted: July 27, 2011

In December, the new corporate headquarters of Gardner Denver Inc. in Tredyffrin Township "felt like an Internet start-up," said chief financial officer Michael M. Larsen.

Besides Larsen, only CEO Barry L. Pennypacker and an assistant were rattling around the office after the maker of industrial compressors and pumps had relocated from Quincy, Ill.

Today, Gardner Denver has 23 employees in the home office of a very global business that generated 65 percent of its $1.9 billion in revenue from outside the United States last year.

Why move the headquarters of an industrial-products maker out of the manufacturing heartland of the United States to the Philadelphia suburbs?

In an interview, Pennypacker said he and his management team were losing "countless days" each year traveling from Quincy to its 39 factories around the world and to investor meetings in the Boston-Washington corridor. Quincy is 125 miles from the St. Louis airport and more than 300 miles from Chicago's O'Hare.

When a relocation consultant listed Philadelphia as one of the best locations for business travel and managerial talent, Pennypacker, who grew up in Royersford, knew he'd found where he'd like to grow the 6,200-employee company.

Larsen, who joined Gardner Denver in October, was already here, having been CFO for General Electric Water & Process Technologies in Bensalem since July 2009.

"Mike and I are blue-collar guys," said Pennypacker, who was named chief executive in January 2008. "We believe in operating businesses, not spreadsheets and computers."

Having studied Toyota's production system and run manufacturing operations for the last 25 years, Pennypacker launched a restructuring program to get Gardner Denver through the recession and boost profit margins. Since 2008, the company has closed eight plants and cut its workforce by 2,300 people.

Pennypacker pushed and even taught the

concept of "lean manufacturing" - which emphasizes reducing waste and improving efficiency to better serve customers - to those from the shop floor to back office. It's a culture change focused on emphasizing an organization's people, who Pennypacker said "appreciate," rather than machines that depreciate.

So far, it's worked. Last Thursday, Gardner Denver reported a whopping 80 percent increase in second-quarter net income - $67.1 million, or $1.27 per share, compared with $37.3 million, or 71 cents

per share, for the same period in 2010. Revenue was also up 36 percent to $610.7 million.

Shares of Gardner Denver are up 29 percent this year, closing Tuesday at $89.04.

They're up 205 percent since Pennypacker became CEO.

Contact columnist Mike Armstrong at 215-854-2980, or @PhillyInc on Twitter. Read his blog, "PhillyInc," at


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