JACKSON CENTER, OHIO — January 21, 2020 — In the world of manufacturing, teams of people are essential to the process. Seldom does one person stand out and make such a singular impact on a company the way Airstream’s Senior Vice President of Operations Mark Wahl did in his over two-decade career at the company. On December 31, 2019, Wahl officially retired from Airstream, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to impact the company for years to come.
Wahl joined Airstream on November 10, 1997 as the Vice President of Manufacturing. He came to Airstream having already established himself as a leader and innovator in the RV industry. He began his career at Avion Coach Corporation in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Avion was then acquired by Fleetwood Enterprises where Mark held various management positions and worked in eight different facilities across the United States. He eventually took a position at the Damon Corporation where he worked for almost three years, and was the plant manager before joining Airstream as the VP of Manufacturing.
In Jackson Center, Wahl flourished, making a profound impact on the company, its associates, and the products.
“It’s hard to overestimate what Mark brought to this company,” said Airstream CEO and President Bob Wheeler, who began his own career around the time Wahl came on board and has worked side by side with Wahl for 20 years. “There’s a magic to seeing how the details come together in the bigger picture. Mark’s strength was connecting those dots and implementing innovative solutions that have strengthened our organization at its core.”
Wahl began his time at Airstream overseeing manufacturing, commercial operations, and facility maintenance, but as his career progressed he assumed responsibility for product development, engineering, human resources, and more. Most notably, Wahl was responsible for helping to develop the infrastructure that enabled Airstream to expand its product offerings in the mid-2000s. He established Airstream’s manufacturing engineering department and a training and development department, ushering in a new era for the iconic brand. He also helped see the company through the worst downtown in the American economy beginning in 2008. Ultimately, Wahl’s management and leadership – combined with the processes he implemented – were essential components that allowed Airstream to survive the 2008 recession and come back stronger than ever.
“You can use the best materials, follow the best plans, and utilize the best equipment, but ultimately it’s the people who are crucial to making the best product,” said Airstream COO Justin Humphreys. “Mark Wahl was the kind of leader who demanded the best of himself, and inspired the best in the people who worked alongside him. People like that don’t come along very often, and Airstream was lucky to have Mark Wahl.”
Those who worked alongside Wahl echo that sentiment.
“He brought an attitude to everything where failure wasn’t an option,” said Marion Slater, Airstream’s Director of Engineering. “For Mark, there literally was no hill too high to climb. He could be tough, but he could also inspire you to go above and beyond simply by doing that himself. You didn’t want to let him down.”
Since 2018, Wahl oversaw the largest facilities expansion in Airstream history, leading the internal team through the planning, design, and construction phases of Airstream’s new travel trailer production facility.
“He’s got this encyclopedic knowledge of the Airstream process – from the manufacturing to working with suppliers and managing the associates on the line,” said Wheeler. “His experience was essential as we began to look at how we not only moved our production to a new facility, but how we would continue to improve and tighten that process and strengthen Airstream’s dedication to quality.”
With completion of Airstream’s new plant on the horizon, Wahl made his retirement official – though he promises to continue advising the company in a limited capacity throughout the transition.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege,” said Wahl. “I’m extremely proud to have been a part of Airstream’s success and growth. More than anything, though, I’m grateful for the many friendships and memories shared with my associates and colleagues along the way. All of those relationships have a profound impact on a person’s career. It will be those regular interactions that I’ll greatly miss.”