Christina Keller, the daughter of Cascade Engineering Inc. founder Fred Keller, has been named president and CEO of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based injection molding company that employs 1,900 people at 13 facilities.
Cascade announced the news Sept. 17. Keller assumes the top post from Mark Miller, who is retiring at the end of September.
Keller, 37, joined Cascade in 2009, From 2010 to 2013 she was business unit leader for Triple Quest, which produced and distributed the Hydraid Biosand Water Filter. In 2013 she was named president of CK Technologies (CKT), the unit of Cascade specializing in molding for the commercial truck and bus sectors based in Montpelier, Ohio.
CKT, which also runs factories in Mount Airy, N.C., and Brownsville and Grand Prairie, Texas, posted two consecutive year of record sales under Keller's leadership.
In 2016, Keller returned to Grand Rapids as president of the Camus business Team, where she was responsible for strengthening the core business across business platforms with manufacturing operations at six Grand Rapids facilities. She worked with the leaders of Cascade Cart, Automotive Americas, Innovative Plastic Technologies, Decade Products and Noble Polymers, helping develop growth strategies.
Most recently, she led the strategic integration of all of Cascade's North American business units.
In a telephone interview, Keller said she first worked at the family business through an internship while in high school.
"I really enjoyed the culture of the people on the production floor," she said. One of her fellow classmates now leads Cascade's advanced manufacturing efforts.
Cascade is well known for its welfare-to-career and prisoner re-entry programs.
In high school, she moved with her family to Switzerland, where Fred Keller was working on a joint venture. She graduated from high school at the American International School of Zurich.
That joint venture didn't work out, Keller said, but the experience got her interested in international business and culture. She earned a bachelor's degree in international studies from Boston College, then an MBA from Cornell University with a concentration in sustainable global enterprise. She studied Lean Six Sigma training at Villanova University.
"I am honored to have an opportunity to foster a vibrant culture based on trust, diversity and inclusion, established over more than 40 years," Keller said. "I am humbled by the responsibility entrusted in my and I am excited to continue our tradition of innovation in the plastics industry."
The promotion marks the next generation of Kellers to run Cascade Engineering. "I am excited that Christina has the skills, the demonstrated competency, and the interest in leading Cascade into its next chapter," Fred Keller said. "I'm also thrilled to have continued family involvement in the leadership of Cascade Engineering."
Christina Keller, interviewed Sept. 18, said a birthday lunch was set that same day, where employees typically share their stories. That's what she enjoys about Cascade — employees from diverse backgrounds coming together in a manufacturing team. "Just the enthusiasm of people from the production floor" she said. "People moving forward is pretty exciting to me."
Miller started at Cascade in 2006 as the vice president of sales and marketing for CK Technologies. He became president of CK a year later. In 2013, he became president of Cascade Engineering, assuming the CEO title in 2014.
Regarding Miller's retirement, Fred Keller said: "Mark has been a tremendous leader for Cascade Engineering. He directed the growth of CKT from a small business acquisition into becoming the largest of nine businesses we currently operate. His contribution to Cascade Engineering has been remarkable."
Christina Keller also praised Miller for his guidance, experience and mentorship in preparation for her new position leading Cascade.
Kenyatta Brame, Cascade's executive vice president, said Christina Keller "is grounded" in the company's culture. "She has the distinctive ability to combine her analytical skills with compassion and humility, making her an invaluable asset to our business."
Cascade Engineering's new top executive is looking forward to the job. "It's exciting to see where we're going in the future," she said.