Fred Keller

Chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids. Cascade is a multi-business manufacturer and marketer that supports multiple brands in the automotive, truck, solid waste and recycling, furniture, and renewable energy industries. A materials engineer by training, Keller founded the company in 1973, following an earlier career as a metallurgist with Pratt & Whitney. From its small beginnings as a plastics parts manufacturer, Cascade has grown into a solutions-based organization with 17 customer-focused business units, 1,000 employees, and 12 facilities worldwide. A strong advocate for sustainable business practices, Keller has emphasized the key role business can play in building financial, social, and ecological capital, often through partnerships with government and community agencies. Cascade has been widely recognized for its business achievements and community involvement. In 2004, Keller was named to the U.S. Department of Commerce Manufacturing Advisory Council and is the current chairman. He is also the recipient of a Distinguished Service Award from the National Governors Association and the 2007 Michigan Diversification Achievement Award in Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive & Materials from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Most recently, Keller was the 2008 recipient of the Donald C. Burnham Manufacturing Management Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Keller is a director of Meijer Inc. and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and serves on the national advisory board of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He is past chair of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids and has chaired several community boards. He serves as a visiting lecturer on sustainability at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management. Keller earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell and his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

WHERE BORN: “Grand Rapids.”

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS: “My father. He was a person who I worked with for many years. He was an entrepreneur with a 10th grade education and very committed to people. Early in his career, he was a preacher. He had a wonderful combination of concern for people and skills for business. I learned a lot from his ability to translate those experiences. He was an individual who wasn’t afraid to do the right things for his people and his business.”

LAST BOOK READ: "Capitalism at Work: Business, Government and Energy by Robert L. Bradley, Jr.”

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Visionary, someone who cares, systems thinker, passionate about sustainability.”

WHERE MY FIELD/INDUSTRY IS HEADED: “The manufacturing industry is headed in two directions. One is growing and one is under attack. Growing is renewable energy. Under attack is automotive. In the renewable field, we are manufacturing and distributing the Swift wind turbine, a one-kilowatt rooftop mounted unit for residential and commercial users. We are developing a second wind turbine and working on a third. We’re developing solar energy products, as well.”

FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL GADGET: “The most used is my BlackBerry.”

FAVORITE PLACE: “Jackson Hole, Wyoming.”

FAVORITE HOBBIES: “Woodworking, I don’t get to do it enough, and cooking.”

FAVORITE FOOD: “I like a variety of foods, it depends on my mood. Almost any ethnic food.”

MY HIDDEN TALENT: "I’m a visiting lecturer at Cornell University and I’ve learned what it means to be a visiting professor.”

HOW I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: “Credible and helpful.”