When Drake McGruder started working for Georgia Pacific in 2008, his daily commute included driving by a Planters nut facility and thought he might like to work there.
He joined the Fort Smith plant as associate safety manager in August 2011 and was promoted to safety, security and environmental manager in 2014. In April 2016, he was named senior manager of operational risk management and was responsible for the beverages and snack nuts division.
In 2016, the Fort Smith plant was the only company facility to have zero incidents and no workers compensation costs. It also went 4 million work hours without a lost-time injury.
In 2017, McGruder was promoted to associate director and was responsible for frozen and lunchables until June 2018. After, he became responsible for meals and desserts, which is a division of about 3,000 employees at five U.S. plants.
The company has a low injury rate, looks to maintain it and is working to release safety rules globally to reduce severe injuries. The means to mitigate injuries include plant renovations. “By 2024, we would like for everybody to be, what we call green on safety rules,” McGruder said.
The Germantown, Tenn., native earned a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering in 2006 and a master’s degree in engineering in 2012, both from the University of Arkansas. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he worked as a quality engineer for Baxter Healthcare Corp. in Mountain Home and worked there until he started at Georgia Pacific in 2008.
McGruder serves on the Arkansas Alumni Association board of directors. He is also on the alumni steering committee for Campaign Arkansas and is president of the association’s Fort Smith chapter. He spends his free time working out, at the beach and flying model airplanes.