When Doug Wehrkamp worked for his father on the family poultry farm in St. Henry, Ohio, about an hour northwest of Dayton, he quickly learned about accountability, responsibility and "how to fix just about anything."
Now, Wehrkamp is president and chief operating officer of Enka, N.C.-based Southeastern Container Inc., a manufacturing co-operative established in 1982 that produces and sells containers for the exclusive use of Coca-Cola bottlers.
Wehrkamp said the company supplies 34 states and six Canadian provinces from five manufacturing operations and approximately 64 injection systems and 20 blow molding lines.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering technology from the University of Dayton and a master's degree in finance from Seton Hall University, he worked for Owens-Illinois Inc. in Toledo, Ohio, as a process engineer. He then joined Apple Container Corp., PET manufacturing operations for the New York Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
Johnson Controls Inc. acquired Apple Container in 1988, and Wehrkamp left JCI in 1993 to join SEC.
When he first joined SEC, Wehrkamp's role was technical manager. He moved to general manager in 1995, followed by director of engineering. He became president and chief operating officer in 2012.
During that first year with the executive titles, he said there was "a lot of learning" and "a lot of getting up to speed."
"I'd been with the company for a long time, so I'd understood the culture of the company," he said. "Some folks that I'd previously worked for were now working for me, so it was about building relationships and learning the business and really trying to move Southeastern to the next level."
Wehrkamp said the company was also closing some facilities during that time to match its "footprint up to the Coca-Cola bottlers and their needs."
"I think we've done a nice job of how we've handled some of the consolidations and how we've treated our people," he said. "For the most part, we were able to find people other employment, and that was a satisfying way to know that people were able to find other work. People are key for us at SEC. It's all about people and taking care of them."
Wehrkamp said the company's people are the key to its success and that they are geared to doing what is necessary to ensure the "long-term success of our Coca-Cola bottling partners" while exceeding expectations, quality, service and price. SEC has more than 500 employees and was No. 9 on Plastics News' blow molding ranking in 2017, with estimated sales of $585 million.
Wehrkamp has been married to his wife, Kelley, for 26 years. The couple has two children — Ashley, 24, and Tom, 22 — and a rescue dog named Reno, 13.
He enjoys playing golf on the weekends and following Notre Dame Fighting Irish sports. (Wehrkamp received has a certificate in executive management, leadership, finance and strategic thinking from the University of Notre Dame.) Since his wife is from Long Island and they previously lived in New Jersey, they're also New York Yankees fans and love going to a baseball game from time to time. They also enjoy going to local venues to listen to live music.
The president and COO hopes his legacy as a company executive is as a "professional who truly cared about the people within his organization each and every day."
Wehrkamp said the plastics industry is fast-paced and never boring; he said there's always "something changing, something moving, … something new and something different going on."
"I've never had a day that I didn't want to come to work," he said. "To be [working for] 34-35 years now and every day wanting to come to work because there's something new and exciting, I feel very fortunate in that respect."