Employee profile: Andy SweenPublished by emzabinski on Mon, 2013-06-24 12:02
For a lad from Owatonna, an area surrounded by farms in all directions, living in the lakes and woods of northern Minnesota is a new world.
“As a 5-year old, I loved to fish,” said Andy Sween. “I couldn’t wait for my dad to take me to area lakes to catch one of the three B’s: bullheads, bass or bluegills. But because there is only one lake in Owatonna, we would usually drive to Faribault or Waseca to fish. I can still remember the anticipation of getting on the water as we drove to our destination; even going to the bait shop was fun. It was a great time to bond.”
Andy’s love of fishing was encouraged by one of his grandfathers. He and Andy’s grandmother had a big fish house on Lake Mille Lacs and a camper and boat on French Lake near Faribault where he loved to spend time as a kid. When he wasn’t fishing, Andy enjoyed spending time on both of his grandparent’s farms near Owatonna.
After high school, where he participated in every band he could, Andy earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Bemidji State University with an advertising/public relations and broadcasting emphasis. “When I lived in Owatonna, even Alexandria was ‘up north’ as far as I was concerned,” said Andy. “I really wanted the opportunity to go to school in the Northwoods, and Bemidji was a great choice for me. Small classes, affordable tuition and the area’s natural beauty made it ideal.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree, Andy took a brief job doing voice-overs and sound effects for a children’s CD-ROM publisher. He then took a temp agency job with a national equipment rental firm, but “temporary” ended up being nine years.
“I worked for RSC Equipment Rental in Plymouth,” Andy explained. “My first job was billing administration, and then after a few years I was selected to be a part of a process improvement team to improve business flow. We developed a ‘quick quote’ process that eliminated re-work from the ordering process. The system was used to create more than 1,000,000 quotes in the first 18 months. It was a huge undertaking.
“When an inside sales job in northern Minnesota came along, I was in a good position,” he continued. “I had always wanted to get back ‘up north.’ We relocated to Grand Rapids in 2005 and I commuted to Hibbing. We thought Grand Rapids had a lot to offer, and we’re glad we made the move.”
Although he learned a lot at RSC in Hibbing, Andy felt the need to spend more time at home with his young family and saw a chance to end the 80 mile-per-day commute when he applied for a job at GRSB in 2008. He is now the marketing/purchasing coordinator, a job with a great deal of variety and many challenges.
“I like being active, and this job certainly gives me that opportunity. The marketing portion of my job is an outlet for my creativity, while the purchasing function is a way for me to help keep the other departments functioning smoothly and efficiently.” Andy gives credit for his creativity to his mom. “She was an early childhood teacher and as kids we were always doing fun crafts and activities that promoted creativity and playfulness.”
Andy and his wife, Betsy, have three children: Ellen, Micah and Henry. Betsy is a middle school choir teacher, and Andy is justifiably proud of what she does and how she does it. “Betsy’s first job here in Grand Rapids was substitute teaching in District 318. She got the chance for a full-time job, and she does wonderful things with kids in that age group. Teaching art and music in our schools is critical to the academic development and success of our kids, and she makes learning fun for them.”
Music is in the family, it seems. Andy’s father made a career with Owatonna-based Wenger Corporation selling music supplies and equipment. It was a family owned company with humble beginnings, much like GRSB. His territory was Texas, and during his 34 years working with band directors, he developed a reputation so strong that the Texas legislature made Gary Sween an “honorary Texan.”
“I credit my dad with everything I’ve learned about customer service,” said Andy. “He knew how to take care of people and it showed.”
Andy’s hobbies today mostly revolve around his family’s lives, but he loves spending time on his new boat, the boat of his dreams, he says.
“I love being outdoors,” said Andy. “During the summer, being out on the lake is therapeutic. And during deer season, my favorite spot in the world is a chunk of the Chippewa National Forest north of Bemidji. I made a life-long friend with one of my professors at Bemidji State, and he introduced me to the area. There are few things I enjoy more than being in that patch of woods surrounded by God’s natural beauty.”
Andy expects that as his family grows, he’ll be able to devote more volunteer time to his church and to supporting the Food Shelf, one of his favorite non-profits. “They provide a basic need, and it’s good to give back to the community.”
Left: Gary Sween and young Andy with the first big fish; Betsy, Micah, Ellen & Andy Sween; Henry.