November 14, 2013

Braun sets sights on retirement

— For 13 years, Werner Braun has in many ways been the face and voice of the carpet industry.

Now, the 69-year-old president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute is looking ahead to a March 31 retirement. Braun announced his plans during the CRI’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

He said in an interview later that he wants to spend more time with his family and volunteering in community organizations he supports. He and wife Mary, he said, will be able to spend more time with 18-year-old Marylyn, who is a freshman at Valdosta State University, and attending football and wrestling events with son Werner “Bay” Braun, 16, who attends Dalton High School.

Braun said he also expects to be more involved in volunteer and civic activities. He has been active in the Alzheimer’s Association, Whitfield Healthcare Foundation and Roman Open Charities, among other endeavors.

CRI board chairman David Jolly said the board of directors has formed a search committee to find someone to fill Braun’s position. He said it will likely be a nationwide search. He praised Braun for his professionalism and called him “an excellent ambassador for the carpet industry.”

The CRI bills itself as “the leading industry source for science-based information and insight on how carpet and rugs create a better environment for living, working, learning and healing.” Its mission is to “serve the carpet industry and public by providing facts that can help people make informed choices.”

Braun came to work for the institute in 2000 after serving as senior director of international relations for the Chlorine Chemistry Council. Braun said he was working near Washington, D.C., at the time and saw the position in Dalton as a good move for him, both personally and professionally.

“I enjoyed that job, but Mary and I had spent a lot of time in Midland, Mich., which is a small town very similar in size to Dalton,” he said. “We really liked that small-town feel, the ability to make friends and know so many people in the community and become a fiber of the community.”

Braun also worked at Dow Chemical Co. for 31 years. Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Braun came to the United States with his parents in 1949. He grew up in Indianapolis, according to a news release, and attended St. Edward University in Austin, Texas, on a tennis and academic scholarship.

Braun said that after reflecting on his many decades in the workforce, he decided he wanted to take some time to also enjoy other aspects of life.

Jolly said Braun has seen the industry through some of its most dramatic changes, including the economic recession that saw many carpet mills experience closures and layoffs. Braun praised industry leaders for how they handled the changes of the past few years, saying they had the foresight to scale back overtime and sometimes eliminate shifts in an effort to save as many jobs as possible.

As for some of his big takeaways from his time at the CRI, Braun emphasized the friendships he’s formed.

“The CRI lives by the volunteerism of our members, and they have put an enormous amount of effort into supporting CRI and supporting the carpet industry, and those are friends I will have long after I retire,” he said. “That was a big thing. The other thing that I mentioned this morning (in the retirement announcement), and it’s something that is really, really unique and a story that has not been told very often, and that is the sustainability responsibility of this industry.

“When I came here in 2000 and started looking at all of the things that the industry had done to continue the journey of sustainability, I was just blown away. The things that the industry had done on a totally voluntary basis to reduce its environmental footprint was something I had never seen before, and I had been exposed to a lot of industries in my days at Dow, so it was nice to come into an industry, into a culture, that valued sustainability.”

Jolly said Braun has “set a high bar for his successor to follow.” In the news release, Jolly praised Braun as a “stalwart defender and promoter of the carpet industry.”

Asked if he had advice for a successor, Braun said it’s important to remember the CRI works mostly with volunteers and that those people need to be shown they’re valued. He praised those he’s worked with for their ability to work cooperatively even with industry competitors.

“The other advice I would give is make sure that you remember that these are all competitive companies with one another, but when they walk through the door of the CRI to work on one of our panels or task groups, they’re taking off their company hat and putting their industry hat on, and they have to be rewarded for that effort.”

Braun said he plans to continue living in Dalton after retirement.