When Ralph Boe took the helm as CEO of Beaulieu of America in June 2007 things didn’t look good for the company. Soon, they would look much worse.
The Dalton-based floorcovering company had just settled a federal tax evasion charge that led to the removal of its previous CEO from day-to-day operations. As part of a plea agreement, the company agreed to pay more than $33 million in back taxes, fines, penalties and court costs.
Less than a year later, the United States would enter what many economists now call the Great Recession, and it can be argued no industry was hit harder than the floorcovering industry. The Dalton metropolitan area, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, lost some 13,100 jobs and saw its unemployment rate rise from 4 percent in May 2007 to 10.9 percent in November 2008.
Boe steps down as CEO on Friday. On Tuesday night, friends, family and co-workers gathered at the Creative Arts Guild to celebrate his accomplishments and to wish him well in his retirement. He leaves a company stronger and better prepared for the future, they said.
“It was good to see the housing market come back. That obviously helped,” said Mike McAllister, Beaulieu’s director of marketing. “But (Boe) has made a lot of good calls. He really trusted his people, allowed them to make decisions without being second guessed. He’s a tireless worker, the first one in the office in the morning and the last one to leave at night.”
McAllister, who has known Boe for 25 years, said he’s a good person as well as a good boss.
“He’s as nice a person as you could hope to meet. He’s very fair, very caring, just an all-around good person,” he said.
Richard Abamowicz, vice president of Beaulieu’s central division, said Boe leads by example.
“He sets high expectations for himself and for others,” he said. “He’s one of the most sincere persons I’ve met. He cares about the company and about the people around him.”
Boe said he was humbled by all of the people who came out to honor him.
“They are great people, and Beaulieu is a great company,” he said. “It has been a privilege for me to work with them.”
Boe, 70, said he expects Beaulieu will continue to prosper.
“They have a great management team, great people,” he said. “But change is inevitable, and it’s time for new people to come in with new ideas.”
Boe has been with Beaulieu almost 13 years and has been involved in the floorcovering industry for more than 40 years. He announced his retirement last May. At the same time, Beaulieu president and chief operating officer Karel Vercruyssen, was promoted to co-CEO, and will soon begin as the sole CEO.
Boe has been active in several community organizations including the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership, the United Way of Northwest Georgia and the Whitfield Healthcare Foundation. He plans to continue his community involvement.
Amanda Burt, president of the United Way of Northwest Georgia, said Boe has been an invaluable supporter, helping to raise money and to educate Beaulieu employees about the United Way and the agencies it supports.
“We are going to present him with our Live United award Monday at our meeting. It’s only the second time we have presented this award,” Burt said. “It is reserved for an individual or company who really embodies the spirit of the United Way and volunteerism.”
Boe said his desire to give back to the community remains strong.
“I want to continue to see what I can do to help this community address any problems it faces and to continue to prosper,” Boe said.