Name: Robert Gelinas
Position: Plant Manager
Company: BioLab Inc.
Hometown: Shawinigan, Quebec
Education: B.S., Chemical Engineering, Sherbrooke University
A native of Canada, Robert Gelinas’ career in chemical engineering has taken him around the world. His first job in Canada was for BF Goodrich before a series of transfers took him to Germany, Belgium and eventually Texas. From there, he landed in Lake Charles as plant manager for BioLab, an industry leader in the development and marketing of innovative products that provide clear water for pools and spas. He speaks fluent French and English and has a working knowledge of German; he became a U.S. citizen in 2010.
As plant manager, Gelinas is perpetually on the job, responsible for both performance and safety. Through the years, he’s learned the importance of listening and clear communication. He says that part of his job involves keeping the community safe, and his résumé includes a long list of community service. He’s helped to raise more than $14 million for United Way of Southwest Louisiana over the past six years and serves on several industry boards.
Now close to retirement and reflecting on a decades-long international career, Gelinas wants to serve as a mentor for the younger generation, hopefully leaving behind a perfect safety record and a dedication to continuous improvement.
What is your secret to leadership and advancing in your field?
Be a good listener; this is how you learn. Communicate clear strategies and goals to your team, always strive for continuous improvement, be passionate about safety, report results, recognize good achievement and be visible on the shop floor.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
Contact with people and interacting with all levels of the organization. Meeting goals and celebrating achievements is very satisfying. At this stage of my career, I want to be a mentor for people and try to develop them by sharing my experience.
What is one thing about your job people don’t expect or don’t know and hear about?
I guess they don’t hear about the calls, text messages and emails in the middle of the night or on weekends. Plant managers are on call 24/7.
What are some of the biggest challenges that come with working in your industry?
Recruiting and retaining good employees. It is a very competitive market. Also, meeting all agency and permit requirements, being cost competitive and keeping everybody safe, including the community.
What do you see for the future of your industry?
Growth. More pools will be built with the economy recovering. We have new products on the market that are growing our sales, and import duties on Chinese products make American-made products more affordable.
What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or what volunteer efforts do you support?
I am on the board of directors of Louisiana Chemical Association. I am the chairman of the board of the Louisiana Chemical Industry Alliance. I am on the board of the United Way of Southwest Louisiana and just completed my sixth campaign for major industry. I am a member of the Lake Area Industry Alliance and was president for two years.
What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?
My international career. I learned languages and exposed my children to different cultures and countries.
What is your favorite way to spend your time?
I spend a lot of time at home, but I like to travel a lot, too, to Europe, Mexico, Canada, New Orleans, Houston, New York, San Francisco. I also play golf and—being Canadian—I spend a lot of time watching my favorite hockey team on TV.
What is an item on your “bucket list”?
Spend one week in Tuscany with my wife and play Pebble Beach golf course with my son and grandson.
If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?
What do you do to unwind?
I unwind every Friday afternoon by smoking a cigar and drinking a good glass of Scotch. I also work around the house taking care of the yard and like to drive my Corvette.
This article was originally published in the second quarter 2017 edition of 10/12 Industry Report.