From a factory in Havre de Grace, Mary Steinebrunner oversees the production of 1.5 million pairs of boots a year.
The boots made by Dunlop Protective Footwear USA are designed for function, not fashion. The footwear protects workers on farms, oil rigs, fishing boats, food processing plants, construction sites and other commercial facilities against cold, mud, oil, manure, chemicals and animal hooves, and slipping or tripping.
"The products we build, they're down and dirty, and they're products you don't think about very often that protect people's lives," said Steinebrunner, managing director of the U.S. division of a Netherlands-based global manufacturer, which also has plants in the Netherlands and in Portugal. "We touch so many people's lives."
Steinebrunner came to the factory 17 years ago when it was Bata Shoe Co., which moved to Belcamp in Harford County from Europe in 1939. A former buyer for J.C. Penney Co., she started in April 2000 as a marketing assistant and worked her way up through a series of owners and name changes.
Last May, Dunlop Footwear acquired the company from Ansell Limited and Steinebrunner was promoted from acting managing director. She heads an operation of 105 employees who design, test and produce the work boots and ship them to distributors throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"I like that we are small enough to be nimble to react to what we see happening in the industry," Steinebrunner said.
The acquisition by Dunlop expanded that company's manufacturing to the United States, where it sees growth particularly in the energy and food industries.
The new owner also brought new technology to the plant, equipment used to make boots made out of Purofort, a Dunlop-invented material designed to be thermally insulating as well as lightweight.
Steinebrunner, who grew up in White Marsh and studied business administration at the University of Baltimore, was recently recognized by state Comptroller Peter Franchot with a Bright Lights Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for helping to strengthen the state's economy and generate jobs and tax revenue.
Plans call for expanding the plant's manufacturing capacity and launching new footwear products, Steinebrunner said.