Founder says economic freedom, creativity benefits companies

SANG JUNG, Evergreen reporter

The founder of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, one of Pullman’s largest employers, described to an audience in the CUB Senior Ballroom on Tuesday how the company is outperforming its competitors, and the philosophy it adopts to be successful in the electronic manufacturing industry.

Edmund O. Schweitzer III, president, chairman of the board, and chief technology officer of SEL, said taking advantage of opportunities, staying persistent and promoting creativity has made the company competitive on a global scale.

“We invent, design, build, manufacture, support the systems that control and protect the electric power systems in the world,” Schweitzer said.

He said the company’s advantages have allowed it to become one of the top competitors in the world, and the American business environment has helped it grow to what it is today.

“Economic freedom and political freedom are inseparable,” Schweitzer said. “Those give us the opportunity that no other countries enjoy to the extent that we do here in the United States of America.”

Emphasizing this freedom, Schweitzer stressed that students and faculty have a say in what happens around them.


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“If the government needs to do something, we need to ask ourselves, is this really an issue of the state? The task is to go back to the first principle of the Constitution,” he said. “I implore you, as students and you as professors and leaders, to ensure that WSU focuses on fundamentals.”

Schweitzer said he adopts the philosophy of the saying, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” He said staying persistent is better for fostering growth in a company than focusing on a few ideas.

“Not every idea we’ve had were good ideas,” Schweitzer said. “In order to have a good idea, you have to have a hundred ideas.”

He said considering customers’ different experiences means creativity plays a huge role at SEL.

“Customers express their needs in terms of their experience,” Schweitzer said. “We are creative when we deeply understand and interpret their needs and solve them with their, and our, experience.”

He concluded his speech by touching on how companies can foster creativity.

“Where does creativity come from? Does it come from the middle of six people on a conference table? No,” he said. “It’s when the six people share and experience ideas that the spark goes on. So collaboration in and unto itself is what creates innovation.”

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