Vic Pauwels, the former owner of Pauwels Transformers, one of Washington’s largest industries, died Aug. 1, 2014, at his home in Belgium.
Pauwels Transformers was the first foreign-owned industry in Washington.
After nearly six decades of family ownership, including 40 years as a majority stockholder, Pauwels sold his company to Compton Graves Power Systems in 2005.
At the time of the sale, Pauwels had transformer manufacturing facilities in Belgium, Ireland, Canada and Indonesia and was recognized as one of the top five producers of three-phase electrical transformers in the world.
“On behalf of all the employees of Compton Graves and the former employees of Pauwels Transformers, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Pauwels’ family,” Marc Schillebeeckx, president of CG Power Systems USA Inc., said Tuesday. “I know I speak for all of us when I say he will be missed. When I announced the news in the plant, many people came by my office to express their feelings for him. I think that says a lot about how he was regarded.”
Pauwels returned to Washington from Belgium in 2011 to tour his former company. In an interview with The Missourian Pauwels said he feels like an American and adopted son of Washington. He also praised the work ethic of his former Washington employees.
“We had exceptional workers in Washington. They weren’t afraid of hard work and they cared about our success. I’ve used the American worker, our employees in Washington, as an example of how it should be done,” Pauwels commented in the story.
Visited in 2011
Schillebeeckx described Pauwels’ 2011 visit as a “very emotional homecoming.”
“In the (Missourian) interview Pauwels was quoted as saying that ‘It’s not so easy to give your child away to others but the future is very bright for the company and the employees.’ That was typical Pauwels,” he said.
“What struck me about him was his concern for his employees. That was what he cared most about. He knew selling to Compton Graves was the right move for the company and his employees. He was right,” Schillebeeckx added.
The sale helped Compton Graves establish its international footprint in the power and distribution transformer market.
Since its acquisition of Pauwels, Compton Graves has been aggressively expanding its global footprint acquiring a number of other companies. Today it has annual revenues that exceed $2 billion and employs over 8,000 people worldwide.
Its two plants in Washington serve as its North and South American headquarters and employ almost 400 people. The company’s facilities are located on bluff Road.
“Vic was just a phenomenal guy,” Dick Oldenburg, Washington’s first economic development director, said Tuesday. “He thought Washington was outstanding. He really did feel like an adopted son.”
Oldenburg said that Pauwels helped open the door to foreign investment in Washington. Oldenburg was part of a group of civic leaders who flew to Belgium to meet with Pauwels in the late 1980s to pitch the concept of using city-backed general obligation bonds to finance a new manufacturing facility for the transformer maker.
Oldenburg said the vote on the bonds passed by an overwhelming margin which really impressed Pauwels.
“He really, really loved this community and had a tremendous amount of respect for our town,” Oldenburg said.
A funeral service for Pauwels will be held Aug. 8 at 11:30 a.m. at the Cathedral in Mechelen, Belgium. Condolences can be posted at www.perdieus-uitvaarten.be.