Assemblers like Jose Gonzalez use electrical and mechanical prints to assemble some components, such as this control board for a mining-grade climate system. (Chris Linden photo)
It’s hard to believe today, but there was a time when automobiles had no air conditioning and heaters were a luxurious add-on. Auto technologies have come a long way, since the 1940s, and one Rockford company has remained at the forefront of innovation.
For 65 years, Bergstrom Inc. has built climate-control systems for commercial vehicle markets around the world. It maintains plants in eight countries and serves big-name customers like Caterpillar, John Deere and Peterbilt.
Take a drive on any given highway, in any corner of the world, and you’re likely to pass a driver being heated or cooled by a Bergstrom unit: a trucker in a big rig, farmers plowing fields, earthmovers sculpting roads, school bus drivers transporting kids.
Supplying global production is big business in the Rockford area, where nearly one-fifth of all jobs are related to manufacturing, and where local production accounted for nearly $2.5 billion in exports during 2015, according to the federal International Trade Administration. Across Illinois, manufacturers exported some $68 billion in goods during 2014.
Despite its international reach, Bergstrom remains firmly headquartered in the Rockford region. Not only is the company close to major customers and transportation routes, but it’s invested heavily in the success of its employees and hometown.
“My father knew very well that to stay in business, Bergstrom had to supply state-of-the-art, competitively priced, quality products to its customer base, says company chairman David Rydell, whose late father, Elvin Rydell, was an early partner. “He also felt it very important to treat its team members with respect while providing competitive wages and benefits, a pleasant and safe place to work, and adequate training. In addition, he said it was important to treat its supply base fairly, and also to be a good corporate citizen. My father knew very well that this could only happen if the company operated at a decent profit, so that it could share and still have funds to reinvest.”