When Werner Braun’s family immigrated from Germany, they came with all of their belongings in three suitcases and none of them spoke any English.
“Within two weeks of coming to the country, we were on the streets,” he recalled. “We didn’t have a roof over our heads. We didn’t have a job. We had nothing. But within five years of landing here, they bought their first home. This country provided opportunities for my parents, but they were opportunities that were not easily won. They worked six days a week until the day they retired.”
That’s why it is so important to him to give back to the country that embraced his family and to the community he lives in, Braun explained.
“Over the 14 years I’ve been in Dalton, I’ve been on a number of charitable boards, including the state Alzheimer’s Association, the Boys Scouts and other groups,” he said. “I had to back out of that over the past few years, but I’m looking forward to getting involved again. I’ve already started contacting some of these groups and telling them ‘If you need someone, I’m available.’”
Braun steps down on March 31 as president of the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), an industry association he has headed for the past 14 years based in downtown Dalton. On Tuesday, some of the key leaders, past and present, of the floorcovering industry gathered at the Dalton Golf and Country Club gathered to celebrate his achievements at the CRI and to wish him well in his retirement.
“Werner, through the Carpet and Rug Institute, has provided that voice for the industry on so many issues,” said David Jolly, president and CEO of J+J Flooring Group and chairman of the CRI. “He has done it with such professionalism and such integrity. He comes from a science background, and so much of what we do deals with science. He knows the science and can go toe to toe with anybody.”
Braun worked for 31 years for Dow Chemical Co., then worked briefly as senior director for international relations at the Chlorine Chemistry Council before joining the CRI as president in 2000.
Under Braun’s leadership, the CRI spearheaded industry efforts on a number of environmental issues, such as developing the Green Label Plus label that shows carpet meets strict standards on air quality. Braun and the CRI also worked to publicize science showing carpet does not trigger allergies.
Ralph Boe, who recently retired as CEO of Beaulieu of America, praised Braun for his leadership on those issues.
“He was able to put us together with the right organizations and individuals to work our way through those issues,” Boe said. “He’s been excellent from that standpoint. And he has just been an excellent president.”
Several people praised Braun for his ability to keep CRI members focused on issues of shared concern and to bring them together to speak with a common voice.
“He deserves accolades for putting up with the rest of us around here,” joked Mohawk Industries CEO Jeff Lorberbaum.
Braun is the “consummate professional,” said Joe Yarbrough, senior vice president for advanced manufacturing engineering at Mohawk Industries. Last week the CRI’s board named Yarbrough the group’s next president.
“I’ve been privileged to work with Werner for several years, and I’ve seen firsthand the contributions he has made to our industry,” said Yarbrough.
Braun said he plans an active retirement.
“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife, doing a bit of traveling, seeing my grandkids who are up in Indiana,” he said. “Plus, my wife has a list about two feet long of honey do’s that will keep me pretty busy.”