CEO works to empower customers, local students and his community.
The vacuum technology industry is not something that the average person thinks about on a daily basis.
Rick Dekker, CEO of Dekker Vacuum Technologies Inc., is the first to agree with that statement. “We receive calls daily about vacuum cleaner repair,” laughs Dekker, “but we take it in stride.
“People don't realize that so many aspects of their day-to-day lives are affected by vacuum systems. They are used in 85 percent of manufacturing/service industries and, he says, “pretty much everything that we use, buy and touch.”
Dekker Vacuum Technologies was established in 1998 and operates in an 81,000-square-foot facility in Michigan City with 70 employees. Dekker Vacuum Technologies is recognized in the industry as one of the leading suppliers of vacuum equipment.
Vacuums were not Dekker's original career path. “My father was in the vacuum industry, but my initial interest was working with robotics,” he says. After graduating from Purdue, Dekker worked at Panasonic before joining his father, Jan Dekker, in the vacuum industry.
“Dekker Vacuum Technologies was originally set up with my dad and I as equal partners with equal equity,” says Dekker, “but my dad was firm about my being the energy behind it. At that time, he was more established in the industry than I was, so he was a great support, especially with the technical end.
“With a new business, I had to make a lot of sacrifices to get things off the ground. I had to go without a salary for six months, and that's never easy, especially with a young family to support. In hindsight, those early days in business were incredibly valuable.”
Dekker's father sold his shares of the company in 2004, but still acts as a consultant.
“Over a year ago, I took the role of CEO,” Dekker says. “Charlie Mitchell was promoted to president and essentially manages the day-to-day business. He has been a great complement to me. Having Mitchell as president, allows me to put more of a focus on research and development. I also can be more involved with key sales initiatives or visiting key customers.”
Dekker Vacuum Technologies is rooted in empowering customers. “Historically the industry was secretive with their literature, product curves, etc.,” Dekker says. “I made a push to get our product information online. The initial argument was that our competitors would have access to all our information, but I said, ‘They already have it, the customers do not.' Since then, our website has been integral to our company. We just launched a new website earlier this year with expanded information.”
Dekker is a self-described historical adventurer. “I'm a history buff, so I combine historical research with metal detecting. I metal detect on abandoned farm sites and recover items that would ultimately degrade. People always visualize someone metal detecting on the beach, looking for loose change,” he laughs. “What I'm doing is trying to uncover and preserve history.”
Dekker is involved in his community and is active on a number of committees and boards. He serves on the Michigan City North End Advocacy Team (MCNEAT). “Through MCNEAT, we brought Art Space to Michigan City and we work on initiatives to get people interested and engaged in moving the city forward,” he says. He also looks forward to serving as board chair for the Michigan City Development Corp.
With a vision for the future, Dekker looks to our youth. He is the finance committee chair for La Lumiere School, a private high school in LaPorte. He also sits on the advisory board for the A.K. Smith Career Center in Michigan City. “At the career center, we are focused on getting people ready to enter the workforce. There's a shortage of skilled workers and we're working hard on correcting that.”
Dekker hopes his optimism catches on. “We live in one of the best corridors for industry and an ideal place to locate a facility. I am seeing industry improving and I am hearing a lot of optimism in business. I am looking forward to the future of our area.”