June 12, 2019
By Jane Incao
Editor’s note: The above image was taken in 1990, picturing then-Kenney Manufacturing CEO Dick Kenney with Sam and Helen Walton at a supplier appreciation event. In 2013, Walmart pledged to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled, sourced, or grown in the U.S. by 2023. We’re proud to work with supplier partners like window hardware maker Kenney Manufacturing, whose commitment to our investment helps strengthen local communities and create new jobs for American workers.
The beaches of Narragansett Bay have always been home for Gary Sundin.
Growing up in Warwick, Rhode Island, he’s spent countless hours hiking the wooded areas and surrounding shores. These places are as much a bedrock of the man Gary is today as the time spent at his father’s side, learning everything he knows about his trade.
As a lead toolmaker for Walmart supplier Kenney Manufacturing, Gary oversees the machinery that cuts steel to form curtain rods and bath hardware that decorate thousands of homes across the country. Just a 2-mile drive from his house, the Kenney facility is a place Gary has come to know well in his 40 years as an employee.
“Growing up in Warwick, I probably saw Kenney Manufacturing every day,” he said. “So many businesses get up and go where the money is better, but the Kenney family has always been really steadfast in staying here.”
According to CEO Les Kenney, staying in Rhode Island has been the plan since his great-grandfather, Charles D. Kenney, founded the company in 1914.
“I was very involved in conversations about this business with my father when I was younger,” Les said. “He made it clear that for many people, Kenney represents the very life source for their household income, providing meals and paying the bills for everyday life.”
Les said his father taught him that maintaining a strong workforce in the U.S. wasn’t only the right thing to do, it was a competitive advantage that would help the company innovate and pour back into its communities in Warwick and Jonesboro, Arkansas.
And he was right. Kenney recently invested $2 million in new machinery that’s reducing pollution in U.S. operations – machinery that Gary and other Warwick locals designed and built themselves.
“I think that’s my favorite part of this job,” Gary said. “We’ll get a good challenge from the people upstairs, who come down needing some help or asking what we think about making this or that change. That’s when it gets interesting.”
These challenges give Gary the chance to experience something that few people can: his ideas and craftsmanship displayed on Walmart store shelves across the country. Most recently, he helped develop a metal bracket that’s improved the holding power of Kenney’s magnetic curtain rods by 50%.
“It makes me proud to be able to walk into a Walmart store and say, ‘See that over there on the shelf? I made that. I made the machine that makes that.’ That feeling is a really neat thing.”