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Sumitomo Ranked 3rd for Best Places to Work by Inside Business

July 15, 2009


Each year, INSIDE BUSINESS recognizes 25 local employers who make a significant investment in their employees. The Best Places to Work seeks to recognize and support employers who acknowledge their best asset - their employees. Nominations are sought from companies with divisions of 500 or less employees. To be considered among the Top 10, a sufficient number of employees from the companies must complete an online survey.

Sumitomo’s Chesapeake offices, while far away from the company’s international headquarters in Japan, still maintain the philosophy the Sumitomo family adopted more than 400 years ago, which includes the principle of respect for human dignity.

Ron Smith, CEO, is the first American to head the company’s management team.

“My style is building a team,” Smith said. “I don’t do my job with a lot of ego involved – I really believe that I just have a slot on the team. If we don’t have that cohesiveness we can’t win and be successful. Nothing is done independently – there’s a lot of input from smart people.”

Smith said despite being in manufacturing where layoffs are frequent, the company hasn’t had a reduction in its force since 2000. And even then the layoffs weren’t a surprise.

“This is a company that genuinely cares about people. I understand that business leaders have to make difficult decisions,” he said. “But they are carefully considered, the employee has been engaged in the process and there were no surprises. It’s done in a manner that the employee has a safety net.”

Reginald White has been working for the company as a machinist for 13 years. He came to Sumitomo after being laid off from Planters. He started as a temp and was hired full-time after three months.

“It is a family-based company and they care about you,” White said. “My mom was sick years ago and I didn’t have much vacation time, but they made sure I was able to see her and make my time.”

White is a single parent with two children and said despite the tough economy, he feels safe working at Sumitomo because of its openness with employees and constant communication about where it stands.

“Ron Smith always keeps us posted about what is going on with the company. He’s our Norman Schwarzkopf, leading us through the storm,” White said. “The economy is real bad, but he has done his best to keep everyone working here. It makes me feel good that when I come in to feed my kids, we have someone on top fighting to keep me here.”

Smith said the company wants hard workers but recognizes that work is only one part of an employee’s life.

“The happiest and best people are those who have found balance in their life. It’s something that permeates the company. They know we’re working with their best interests at heart,” Smith said.

“We have been able to maintain an incredibly rich benefit package designed to reward good people to stay.”

About the company

Sumitomo Machinery Corp. of America is a subsidiary of Sumitomo Heavy Industries, one of the largest machinery manufacturers in Japan.

Address  42

Shown are Susan Neely, Ron Smith, Jennifer Shambley, Barney Hebid, Jim Solomon, Chris Eaker, Reggie White and Kantish Kasab

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