The skyline of Kankakee County, Illinois, is quickly changing. Everest, CSL Behring’s new seven-story, 300,000 square-foot manufacturing facility, now stands as arguably the tallest building in the county. Visible for miles, Everest is a testament to CSL Behring’s significant growth on a global scale and the increasing demand for its medicines.
Today, with more than 1,600 employees, the Kankakee facility, which boasts a 65-year history, is the largest manufacturing employer in Kankakee County, with most of its employees able to trace their roots to the very town where they work.
Many employees have worked at the manufacturing site for years, decades in fact. For three long-term employees, the rising skyline of the Kankakee campus represents the company’s expansion as a global biotech leader. Their place of work represents more than just convenience; it also represents a legacy of a promise fulfilled to help those in need.
Gloria Smith – A ‘Personal’ Touch
When Gloria Smith joined the Kankakee site as a Packaging Line Operator in 1972, she was only a few months out of high school. Now a grandmother, Gloria explains her motivation behind her long tenure of 42 years, and counting!
“What we do is personal,” Gloria said. “At any moment, you or someone you love may need one of our products.”
Gloria has witnessed many advancements and much growth for the company and herself. She is now a Production Operator and admits that the company’s evolution is exciting and presents new opportunities for employees.
“Everything has expanded,” Gloria said. “Advancements in technology and manufacturing are always evolving, so we have to keep up with that.”
What also continues to expand is the number of employees. “There are new people every day,” Gloria said. Ensuring that new employees understand the ultimate purpose of their work is what Gloria tries to instill in new coworkers.
“We are fulfilling a promise,” Gloria said. “My wish for the company is for it to keep growing. That means we will be helping even more people.”
Don Konemann – A Family Affair
“When I started working here in 1968, the Kankakee campus was a wide open space with mostly corn fields,” said Lead Supervisor, Fractionation, Don Konemann. “Now, it’s a bustling operation with a new building on the way and lots of technology. That’s exciting.”
Don recently marked his 50th anniversary at the Kankakee manufacturing site and has admitted that – while CSL is a large company – it boasts a familial culture of which he is a significant part.
“I have seen many generations of families who have worked here, including my own,” said Don. In fact, over the years, Don’s son, daughter and daughter-in-law have all worked at the site, which is where his son and daughter-in-law met prior to their marriage.
“Because of its focus on people, this is a great place for me and my family members to work because it taught all of us to respect what we do, and that’s helping to save lives.” Don said.
With many memories to choose from over the past five decades, Don recalls one of his earliest, which encompassed his purpose for staying so long: “I had a five-year plan for working here, which turned out to be 50 years,” Don said. “I’m 74 years old and I still love what I do and who I do it for, our patients.”
Jane Granger – A life-saving vocation
Jane Granger (left), with fellow Kankakee manufacturing employee Deborah Mansfield, feels that saving lives is the best part of her job.
Jane Granger began working at the Kankakee manufacturing facility in 1964. During her time with the company, she has grown professionally. After holding various positions, she is now a Validation Administrator, ensuring the high quality of the site’s output. She is passionate about her responsibilities, which she views as more than a job; it’s a vocation.
“We put out a great product,” Jane said. “We save lives. That’s the best part.”
Over the years, Jane has experienced many significant advances at the Kankakee site. “The biggest advancement is technology,” Jane said. “CSL Behring is always improving and modernizing. That’s why we have expanded so much throughout the world.”
Like many Kankakee employees, Jane has shared her passion for her work and CSL with family members. In fact, her granddaughter worked at the site as an intern before being hired full-time in the Engineering department.
“We are a family at this company,” Jane said. “It’s always important to get to know the people you work with. After all, we are all striving toward helping people be well. That’s a common denominator among us.”
After more than five decades of service, that common denominator is what still inspires Jane. She admits she is not ready to slow down. “I forgot to leave,” Jane said. “That’s okay. It’s such a good place. I like the work and the purpose.”