Baxter Gladden

Plant Operations Manager

Gerber Products Co.

Fort Smith

Baxter Gladden

Baxter Gladden is the youngest plant operations manager for Gerber Products Co. in the history of the company's Fort Smith facility.

The 32-year-old says his greatest accomplishment is reaching the top of plant management in such a short period of time.

"I'm pretty proud of that," Gladden says. "People have been very receptive to working for a younger person."

Gladden was named plant operations manager of the facility in May. In that capacity, Gladden is responsible for every aspect of the Gerber facility's operations - from engineering to shipping, he's in charge.

Before working as plant operations manager, he was manufacturing manager. He has been with Gerber, the Fremont, Mich.-based maker of baby foods, since 1987.

He started work as a produce field representative after earning a degree in agricultural business from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Gladden started his career in Fort Smith but was relocated for several years to a Gerber facility in North Carolina. He returned to Fort Smith in 1997.

"I was very happy to get back home to Arkansas," the Pine Bluff native says.

He says he believes that the people who work on the floor of the manufacturing facility are the greatest asset his company has.

"The day and age of managers sitting in offices and determining how things are going to be done on the floor of the plant are over," Gladden says. "To do that is pretty arrogant. You have to get away from that and solicit input from the people on the floor. They have a lot of the answers."