Veteran Employee Story – Mike Burton


Illinois Tool Works  |  A Win-Win Situation  |

Published in the July/August 2010 issue of print Search & Employ®  |

Mike Burton, a group general manager with the Space Bag division of Illinois Tool Works (ITW), a producer of vacuum-compression storage products, knows exactly why he likes to hire veterans. “Veterans quite often have the leadership and organizational skills that are needed in a business and are often lacking,” he said. “These are not skills that can be taught in a school, but must be learned in the trenches, shoulder to shoulder with real people, facing real obstacles. At a minimum, veterans have observed good leadership, and most often have demonstrated it. All veterans have had to diminish individual desires and freedoms for the well-being and success of the larger organization. This is in stark contrast to much of today’s society that is largely focused on self-promotion and self-gain. Beyond the definite business benefits gained by hiring a veteran, I also have the bonus of feeling good that I have benefited someone who has given of themselves for the good of their country. It is a win-win situation.”

Burton ought to know. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1978. He then spent almost eight years in the Ordnance Corps as a platoon leader, General’s aide-de-camp, and company commander. His military career took him to Fort Polk, Louisiana, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, and South Korea.

He left the military as a captain in 1985, and began work as a manager for a variety of public and private companies in engineering and operations roles. All of the companies have been related to plastics processing – film extrusion, profile extrusion, or bag conversion.

ITW hired Burton in 2000 to build a manufacturing plant in Illinois and to run the plant as an operations manager. This assignment led to a role as a business unit manager with responsibilities for sales and operations. He also built a manufacturing plant in the Netherlands during this time. ITW then promoted him to general manager and sent him to England to integrate a new acquisition with an existing European business. He returned to the United States in 2008 to be a general manager with ITW Space Bag. He now serves as the Group General Manager tasked with growing the Space Bag brand. He is responsible for about 600 people at the San Diego division headquarters and at facilities in Mexico, Taiwan, and China.

About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers