PBN Manufacturing Awards: Bradford Soap’s Benton, VIBCO’s Wadensten among industry forces honored

STUART BENTON, left, CEO and president of Bradford Soap Works Inc., was presented Wednesday with the Strategic Leadership Award during Providence Business News' 2021 Manufacturing Awards program. At right, VIBCO Inc. CEO and President Karl Wadensten was named the 2021 Manufacturing Champion. / PBN PHOTOS / RUPERT WHITELEY
STUART BENTON, left, CEO and president of Bradford Soap Works Inc., was presented Wednesday with the Strategic Leadership Award during Providence Business News' 2021 Manufacturing Awards program. At right, VIBCO Inc. CEO and President Karl Wadensten was named the 2021 Manufacturing Champion. / PBN FILE PHOTOS / RUPERT WHITELEY

PROVIDENCE – On a day-to-day basis at Bradford Soap Works Inc., Stuart Benton, the CEO and president of the West Warwick-based soap manufacturer, tries to get everyone at the table and listen to different views on how to make the company thrive, noting that “you don’t know until you listen and hear.”

Benton, who was named Providence Business News’ 2021 Manufacturing Awards Strategic Leadership Award winner, said he tries to have some foresight on where the company can try to go and how Bradford can get there. Benton also prompted Bradford to step up when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Rhode Island last March by donating 70,000 bars of soap to the state.

“We want to be good people and treat everybody right,” Benton said. “Hopefully, [people] see me in that exact same fashion.”

VIBCO Inc. CEO and President Karl Wadensten, who was named the 2021 Manufacturing Champion, helped keep more than 1,600 manufacturers within Rhode Island open during the pandemic by providing a template for the Manufacturing Pledge and using federal safety guidelines to help maintain a healthy workplace for all involved.

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“We pivoted when we needed to pivot. We jumped around in circles when we needed to jump around in circles, and made the best of it,” Wadensten said in his acceptance speech. “It was a tough year, but we survived because we all worked together.”

Wadensten also said leadership is about “being a coach,” not so much about being a boss but rather getting people “back in the game and sharpen their skills.” He also noted that everyone is a problem solver and simple methods can be used to solve big problems.

“There’s no magic to this,” Wadensten said. “If you can have your whole organization … wanting to solve problems, you will win the war.”

Benton and Wadensten were among 15 honorees honored Wednesday in a virtual ceremony for their efforts in the local manufacturing sector. Each honoree will be profiled in a special section that will be part of PBN’s April 2-15 print issue.

The other companies that were honored in this year’s Manufacturing Awards program were:

  • ALCOR Scientific Inc., for Excellence in Product Innovation & Design
  • Amerisewn, for Excellence in Workforce Development & Productivity
  • Amgen Rhode Island, for Overall Excellence at an Enterprise Manufacturer
  • AVTECH Software Inc., for Excellence in Exporting
  • Bradford Soap Works Inc., for Excellence in Green Manufacturing
  • Colonial Mills Inc., for Excellence in Lean Management
  • Eco Global Manufacturing, for Family-Owned Business
  • Finlay Extracts & Ingredients USA Inc., for Excellence in Safety Performance & Records
  • G-Form LLC, for Publisher’s Choice Award for Innovation Adaptation
  • Lumetta Inc., for Overall Excellence at a Small Manufacturer
  • National Marker Co., for Overall Excellence at a Mid-size Manufacturer
  • Vitae Industries, for Emerging Manufacturer
  • William M. Davies Jr. Career & Technical High School, for Collaboration in Manufacturing

Amgen Inc., Cox Business and Polaris MEP were partner sponsors of the 2021 PBN Manufacturing Awards program.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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