How building on lessons from the past fueled the fate of One West Michigan Company


It would be hard for most of Byrne’s hundreds of employees to imagine, but Norm and Rosemary grew up without indoor plumbing, attended one-class schools, and hunted and gathered most of their own food.

From these hardscrabble origins, Norm and Rosemary transformed Byrne from a basement experience into Ada into a global force.

The main driving force was Norm, a 79-year-old paradox. Norm’s management style is a legend, hardly what can be found in today’s MBA textbooks. “You have to get them moving,” he said with a chuckle – hence the nickname, “Stormin ‘Norman”

Norm was born on New Years Eve 1940, the boy alone among seven sisters on the family farm. He graduated from Lowell High School he raced on the track, although his preparation years were marked by tragedy when his father died suddenly of a stroke in 1957. His school days were made even more difficult by dyslexia, a disorder which he would transform into a commercial asset, becoming both an inventor and holder of several patents.

It was in Grand Rapids during the summer of 1962 that Rosemary met Norm. “He asked for my phone number, and I was going to write it on a $ 10 bill he had, but I told him “You’ll spend this before you call me”, so I found a piece of paper. He called me the following Wednesday and we spent the day at Lake Michigan. “

They married in 1963 and founded Byrne in a 12-by-12-foot room in the basement of their Ada home in 1970. When installing their first piece of heavy equipment – a wire cutter that weighed over 500 pounds – he destroyed the lower steps to the basement. They fixed the damage and never looked back.

The two held other jobs as their fledgling business grew – Rosemary as a nurse and Norm in various manufacturing positions.

As Byrne grew, so did the family, with Kelly, Kathy, Dan, and Molly arriving in that order. At first, the couple relied on high-interest shark loans in Chicago because the local banks would not provide them with funds for working capital. Norm never received a salary for the first five years, and each supposed stalemate made him even more relentless in his pursuit of success.

Norm bristles at the prospect of giving up or giving in: “Those who survive are the ones who stick with it,” he says. “Never give up.”

Today, Byrne Electrical boasts more than $ 100 million in annual sales, relying on a workforce that manufactures power and data distribution products for the home, healthcare and furniture industries not only Rockford and nearby Lake view, but in Mexico and China.

To read the full press release, on the humble beginnings and future of Byrne 50e birthdays, please visit

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Contact: Lisa Zabavski
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SOURCE Byrne Electrical specialists

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