Hydro, Inc. has announced the passing of its president and founder, George F. Harris, on December 20th, 2021.
Born in Chicago in 1941, Harris came from humble beginnings, working as a waiter and a taxi driver. He attended the University of Illinois at Champaign and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. After graduation, he worked at several major pump companies as an application engineer and regional manager.
In 1969, Harris was one of the four engineers who founded Hydro, Inc. with the mission of providing engineering services to the pump aftermarket industry. From the beginning, Harris believed in improving the reliability and performance of pumps and encouraging innovation. He was later appointed as president of Hydro.
Hydro began with a single shop in Chicago; under Harris’s leadership and vision Hydro became the largest independent aftermarket pump company in the world. Today, Hydro stands proud with 15 service centres in nine countries.
Harris was instrumental in defining the culture of Hydro: unbiased, engineering- and innovation-focused, and dedicated to the customer. He helped develop programs for customer education in pump processes, believing that the knowledge of how to safely maintain and operate pumps was something that should be shared with everyone. He spearheaded many innovations in the way pumps are serviced, using state-of-the-art technology to re-engineer pumps for maximum efficiency.
Harris is survived by his wife of 56 years, Rita, who he met while at the University of Illinois. She later became vice president of Hydro, and they worked side-by-side to make the company preeminent in the industry. Their leadership was characterised by a special commitment to their employees, who they treated like family. They encouraged all service centres to honour Hydro’s workers with monthly employee celebrations and an annual Employee Appreciation Week. As he once said: “Hydro became the company it did because of the commitment of our people – machinists, mechanics, engineers, administrative and sales staff – who all share a pivotal role in serving our customers.”
The culture of care and loyalty nurtured by the Harrises inspired admiration and esteem in all of Hydro’s employees, many of whom have worked at Hydro for more than 20 years. Harris was also well-respected by his peers within the pump industry. In 2014, he was elected as president of the Hydraulic Institute, the largest association of pump industry manufacturers in North America. In 2015, Europump awarded him its President’s Silver Award in recognition of his valuable contributions to the pump industry.
Bob Jennings, Corporate Trainer, pays a personal tribute:
"I started with HydroAire in 1976 and quickly learned that George Harris was the consummate protagonist who always expected more than people were willing to provide. As an employee, I learned quickly that half-hearted measures were unacceptable and an attitude of ‘good enough” was never tolerated. To think that he took a rag-tag group of 5 street-wise salesmen and turned the company into a global organization with 19 facilities worldwide is an amazing accomplishment. It took hard work, long hours, a “never say never” mindset, and teamwork to grow the company as he did. He wanted to be the best, he wanted the company to be the best, and he wanted each of his employees to be their best.
George was a gifted individual who had the uncanny ability to “see over the horizon” and could glimpse the future needs of the industry long before others had digested last week’s changes.
There was also a side of George that most people never had the opportunity to see: As tenacious a businessman as he was, he was equally generous and caring to those in the “Hydro Family.” George and Rita always treated their employees as “adopted sons and daughters” and they personally bore the burden of knowing that their business decisions not only affect the company but the well-being and security of their employees and their families as well.
George will be deeply missed, but his legacy will live on. He hired what he considered the “best of breed” and those that shared his vision for the future, and the company is saturated with like-minded people who will continue to grow the company well into the future."