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Mission First: People Always – An Interview with LD Buerger from Greenline Industries

by | Jan 9, 2024

Mission First. People Always.

This is the motto of L.D. Buerger, owner of Greenline Industries, a world class manufacturer of high-quality custom wood veneer panels. L.D.’s experience from serving in the military along with John C. Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, helped him realize that the purpose of life isn’t what you achieve, how many awards or recognitions you accumulate, it’s what you can help others achieve.

L.D. hails from “a little bit of here and there.”

“My mom was 18 when she had me and was a high school dropout, so she was a kid raising a kid. She ended up enlisting in the military and then married somebody who was also in the military. I graduated from high school in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where I met my future wife. We both went to the University of Virginia on ROTC scholarships. It was the only way I could afford to go to college.”

With a degree in civil engineering, L.D. Buerger then went into the U.S. Air Force, serving nine and a half years with a job in aircraft maintenance and was deployed all over the world.

L.D. then earned his MBA at Auburn University, and in 2007, when the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Savannah, Georgia made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, he left the Air Force. He worked with Gulfstream for fifteen years rising through the ranks and in 2019 was selected as Vice President of Completions managing 3,200 employees at four different locations, leading all engineering and operations efforts for six different model aircraft.

“In the summer of 2022, I was slated to become the Senior VP of Operations, but it just wasn’t my passion. I’d always wanted to own my own business, and so I talked to my wife about it and she quickly reminded me I was too old to start a business.”

So what did L.D. do? He started looking for businesses that were for sale.

After mentioning the idea to buy a manufacturing business to his accountant, L.D. introduced to Randy Mikels, owner of Greenline Industries in Beaufort. Randy and L.D. connected with each other quickly and after a couple handshakes, he bought the business and became the official owner on September 22, 2022. There is some irony to L.D. buying the business –

“When I first started working at Gulfstream, I helped build the first G650 model aircraft and now my company, Greenline, will make the veneer for the current G650, almost 600 aircraft later, which is pretty cool.”

In the past year, the company has continued to grow in its quality, product offerings and productivity. Since last November, Greenline is now averaging 2,500 boards a week as opposed to the previous 600 per week, a 75% increase in production. The number of employees is also up from 23 to now 35. L.D. takes great pride in his employees, instituting a full benefits package with medical, dental, vision and a 401K.

“We have built a great team consisting of our operations group, who work the production line, along with a sales, design and administrative support staff. I have an amazing plant manager Stan Riner, an expert in manufacturing and construction, who also came over from Gulfstream, I am a very hands-on leader. If a couple of people are not at work, Stan and I will be out in the plant working on the line fixing a sander or a saw or whatever it takes to get our orders out on time.”

L.D. says he has tried to instill a sense of security in his workforce. He shows his employees every day that he is fully invested and committed in them. By doing this, his employees know that he cares and in return, they provide the same level of care back into their work. They also know that he trusts them, so they bring him their issues and problems from the floor and ideas for improvement.

The following Greenline employee story from L.D. says it all.

“I have an employee right now, a single mom, who has struggled throughout her life with a lot of hard luck. She didn’t have a car to get to work, so I bought her one. She then came to me and asked if she could be the cleaning service for the building on extra time to pay off what she owed on the car. It’s a phenomenal story of someone who is working their tail off to improve themselves in life. These are not super glamourous jobs, she could go anywhere making $16-$17 an hour, right? But she’ll stay here, because she knows we will always be there for her. When I was at Gulfstream and responsible for over 3,000 people, it’s nearly impossible to have an impact on each one, not in a meaningful way. Yet, owning a small company, I can. That’s why I did this. I wanted to impact people’s lives in a positive way.”

When asked specifically about what Greenline manufactures, L.D. jokingly answered,

“We make plywood. We make sandwiches. It’s like Subway, the veneer is the bread and anything you want is in the middle, we can change that out too. Everything we do is completely customized for whatever the customer needs.”

Actually, Greenline Industries designs and manufactures premium wood veneer plywood and panels which are ideal for custom interiors, architectural millwork, casework, cabinetry, doors, elevators and furniture. Their natural wood and engineered wood veneer panels and Elevations custom panels can be seen in restaurants, hotels, historic homes, wine cellars, aircraft, courthouses and even on yachts. Mott Manufacturing, a customer of Greenline, makes laboratory furniture for predominantly universities and educational institutions.

“We have more than just a vendor and customer relationship, it is a partnership. They know our standards and deliver the product each time with quality and reliability and adjust when needed to our needs. We had a good relationship with the previous owner but since L.D. took over, there has been increased output of product and that certainly makes us happy. We have a great relationship and look forward to it continuing for many years.” said Doug Walton, President of the Mott Wood Division.

The relationship that L.D. and Greenline has with the Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation has been invaluable. Because L.D. still lives in Savannah, John O’Toole and Charlie Stone have been able to assist him with networking and making those vital business connections in the Beaufort area including joining the Manufacturing Council. They have also introduced him to officials with Department of Commerce and explored several grant opportunities.

“I am looking to expand by putting a building out back for storage, and Charlie has helped me every step of the way with the right contacts for approvals and permitting,” said L.D.

At the end of the day, Greenline Industries is more than just a business L.D. bought;

“It is the legacy I want to leave my family and the people who call Greenline home. What is better than that!”

Click here to check out the Greenline Industries website!

LD shares the latest economic development updates for Greenline Industries based in Beaufort, South Carolina as part of the CONVERGE 2024 Lowcountry Economic Development Summit.