Van Meter: Where Industrial Safety Meets Customer Orientation
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Van Meter: Where Industrial Safety Meets Customer Orientation

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Lura McBride, President & CEO, Van MeterLura McBride, President & CEO Every individual experiences a life-changing episode which either evolves them for the better. For Lura McBride, a renowned businesswoman, the moment presented itself while she was leading an operations team in Chicago for a global consultancy firm. “It was my daughter,” she mentions. “She asked me to tuck her in, and bring my computer...and I did.” That moment led to a personal “what am I doing?” epiphany for Lura. Stunned at how out of balance her life had become, she immediately arranged a three-month sabbatical from her job. Within a year, she had accepted the offer to join Van Meter’s executive team as the Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, starting a steady rise that peaked last year, when she was named president and CEO.

The president and CEO of Van Meter, as Lura is known today, has spearheaded the Cedar Rapids-based electrical and mechanical product distributor to its full glory. “I believe that Van Meter is not just a place to work. It’s a place to grow and learn. It’s a place to make a difference,” she mentions. Barry Boyer, chairman of Van Meter’s Board of Directors, made this predicted that McBride was one of the firm’s best hires on the day she was appointed, “Lura is a true change agent. She is a ‘doer’ and makes things happen. I know Lura will take Van Meter to new heights. She has a keen mind for strategy, a deep commitment to company culture, and a critical understanding that people are the engine that power progress,” mentioned Boyer. Under her reign, Van Meter has truly been growing to become a leader as a wholesale electrical supply distributor of automation, electrical, datacomm, lighting, and power transmission products.

The Glow of an Emphatic History

Since 1928, Van Meter has been more than a mere electrical product supplier. It has resolved crucial business problems for its customers and developed lasting relationships with suppliers as well as the many communities that supported the organization. “Because we believe a company should do more than live by its values—it should create lasting value as well,” states Lura.

Founded by R.L. Van Meter and R.W. Lemley as The Van Meter Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, just before the start of the Great Depression in 1928, the duo had proved through their endeavour that they were forward thinking since the organization’s early days. The bright duo outfitted their headquarters with fluorescent lighting, making it the first building in the west of the Mississippi to have such a feature implemented. Underlying their commitment to service was their tireless spirit of innovation. Each employee was encouraged to listen to customers and motivate manufacturers to engineer better solutions. They understood that when customers’ businesses grew, the whole “family” grew.


When you work with a team member at Van Meter, you’re not just working with an employee—you’re working with an owner. An owner who’s empowered to make decisions, create solutions and do what’s right for your business


Now, more than 85 years later, over 450 employee-owners remain committed to these values. Whether the company’s customers need wire services, technical support, project management assistance or additional solutions, our team is ready and willing to go above and beyond.

Delivering Automation with Safety

At the core, Van Meter remains a company always striving to devise best-of-breed safety equipment that can drastically curb workplace accidents and injuries. The company manufactures safety equipment from emergency stop push-buttons that quickly prevent mishaps to safety interlock switches that shut down a machine when a guard isn’t open. Van Meter has also ensured these safety products are aligned with compliance guidelines and durability benchmarks. Van Meter’s sensing and safety solutions also help with predicting and preventing potential failures or maintenance issues, as well as increasing production and decreasing downtime respectively.

"I believe that Van Meter is not just a place to work. It’s a place to grow and learn. It’s a place to make a difference"

Van Meter’s electrical supply helps clients to select and design industrial automation solutions, and creates open-architecture, connected enterprises. The company’s automation technology specialists are focused on 12 areas of industrial automation. They have the application and programming experience to shorten the client’s project lifecycles to help them get more done in less time. Van Meter can also connect them with other industrial automation resources such as systems integrators for additional services that put several experts at the clients’ fingertips. On the motion sensor side, Van Meter’s motion solutions use gears, belts, and shafts to move an object. Their components often involve a controller (the “brains” of the operation), a motor (the “muscle” of the operation), and an actuator (the “hand” causing movement). The motion solution also includes a feedback device (acting as “eyes”) to monitor, control, and verify position and movement. In printing, packaging, and assembly industries, industrial automation motion solutions improve processes and streamline machine function.

Securing Data Communication and Electrical Equipments

For Data communication, security isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement. To this end, Van Meter delivers surveillance cameras, access control, intercoms, parking control, biometrics, and video management solutions, which play a huge part in making a commercial, institutional, or industrial site as safe as possible.

Whether the end goal is to prevent trespassing, closely watch visitors, monitor activities in a particular area, or to communicate during an emergency, Van Meter offers technology solutions aligned with the client’s budget, timeline, and security needs. From single buildings to multi-facility campuses, Van Meter has the security and datacom products to protect people, property, and information. By investing in security solutions, clients can be assisted in granting after-hours access, managing doors and various locations of a building. In addition, Van Meter also plays a vital role in protecting people, property, and information, controlling and restricting access, allowing localized and remote security management, communicating business and safety critical information, advertising and becoming a potential revenue source.

To protect electrical or electronic equipment from environmental conditions, Van Meter offers a variety of enclosures cabinets. Enclosures also protect building tenants and occupants from potential hazards. Depending on the clients’ application, they may need to follow specific regulations while choosing the ideal enclosure. Van Meter assists them in finding one that can handle heat dissipation and protect against condensation, radio frequency (RF) interference, and electrostatic discharge and also offer metal, plastic, and fibreglass options.

The Van Meter Difference

What differentiates Van Meter is their open and customer oriented work culture. “When you work with a team member at Van Meter, you’re not just working with an employee—you’re working with an owner. An owner who’s empowered to make decisions, create solutions and do what’s right for your business since we know that when our customers succeed, we succeed,” mentions Lura. Van Meter has been a proud 100 percent employee-owned company since 2005. The company understands that each of the employees is responsible for business growth, and such expansion can be accomplished only by nurturing relationships, developing innovative services, and delivering best-in-class products on time.

Lura informs that Van Meter places the power in its employee-owners’ hands with an ESOP— Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The Van Meter ESOP is a retirement plan that requires the company to create a trust to acquire stock. Unlike a 401(k) plan, employees do not contribute to the ESOP, but Van Meter makes all contributions. The ESOP Committee works together to ensure all employee-owners understand the value of owning the company, and securing its future.

Van Meter's clients include electric contractors who help build projects such as football stadiums, hospitals, universities, and factories as well as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) providing high-tech electrical, data and automated products. That service philosophy extends not only to Van Meter customers but to each other, their families and the Iowa communities where they're located. Van Meter donates about 7,000 volunteer hours and contributes $250,000 to local groups annually. "We truly believe our power comes from our people,” informs Lura. “If we hire the best, expect the best and truly help our people be their best, that creates profits that can be reinvested back in employees, the company, its partners, and communities.”

- Laura Davis
    June 11, 2019