WALLA WALLA -- John J. "Jack" Ehren has taken the reins of Walla Walla-based international manufacturer Key Technology Inc. after David M. Camp resigned in May as president and chief executive officer.
According to a May 18 company news release, Camp also resigned from Key's board of directors. A reason was not detailed, though officials said he will pursue other business interests. Camp will also continue to consult with the company over the next year as Ehren transitions in.
Ehren has been with Key since 2008, hired as senior vice president and chief financial officer. Since December 2011 he has served as executive vice president chief operating and financial officer. He was also general manager of SYMETIX, the company's pharmaceutical division in 2009 and assumed duties of the senior vice president of global operations for a significant portion of 2010.
"I am excited to have the opportunity to lead Key as we pursue our vision of technology leadership and excellence," Ehren said in the announcement. "The company has a talented and committed work force and a blue-chip customer base, and I look forward to the challenge of continuing its tradition of excellence and returning to levels of profitability and cash flows that reward our shareholders for their continuing support."
Camp was quoted as saying he is "proud to have led the effort in bringing such a great team together."
He could not be reached for comment after the announcement.
The company's stock on the NASDAQ Global Markets was trading at $12.51 per share on the day the transition was announced. A week later price had fallen to the $10 range.
A year ago Key shares sold for $19. Prices fell to $10.60 last October, after Key announced it had taken actions to restructure operations and reduce costs. Included in those actions was a reduction of approximately 3.5 percent of its global workforce, primarily in North America and China.
Key manufactures process automation systems for food processing, industrial and pharmaceutical markets. It was the 10th-largest employer in Walla Walla County in 2011 with nearly 470 employees, according to information from the Port of Walla Walla.
Camp was recruited to the company in 2006. In 2011, he earned $274,997 as his base salary and $14,107 in "other compensation." His base salary during his tenure at Key fluctuated slightly, though hovered around the $275,000 mark.
But during other years with the company he had earned significantly more -- up to nearly $900,000 one year -- due largely to restricted stock awards.
Under Camp's leadership the company had some of its best sales years and also some of its most difficult cuts due to the recession.
Key reached its first $100 million sales year in 2007, and the company held celebrations at its plants in China, Australia, Mexico, the Netherlands and Redmond, Ore. In Walla Walla, employees were given $100 bills and treated to a performance of Wa-Hi's marching band.
A year later sales hit a high of $134 million, followed by $105.5 million in 2009; $115.8 million in 2010 and $116.3 million last year, Key's annual reports show.
Board Chairman Chuck Stonecipher said in the announcement of the leadership change that more than half of Key's current optical products were developed under Camp's leadership
"We wish him well as he pursues other business interests and know that his next endeavor will be highly successful," he said.