January 11, 2019
George W. Homan, II, retires from Friendship Industries
DATELINE: Harrisonburg, Virginia January xx, 2019
In 1975 George Homan began his career at Friendship Industries running a scanner to convert Rockingham Memorial Hospital’s records to microfiche, that era’s “new thing” in data retrieval.
More than 40 years later, Homan has retired as president and CEO, leaving behind a thriving non-profit organization. He has served our community with humility and grace while advocating for persons with disabilities.
Starting as director of operations in 1975 and promoted to president in 2011, Homan helped lead Friendship Industries from its small building on Waterman Drive to its current 79,000 square foot facility at 801 Friendship Drive. During his tenure, the enterprise has grown from serving 50-60 persons with disabilities to its current workforce of nearly 200 persons who face a diverse range of barriers to employment.
Homan has done everything in the company from picking up employees and bringing them to work, to repairing machines, and delivering products. He oversaw the company’s rehabilitation program, expanding services for supported employment, teaching and training opportunities.
“George is a true leader. He has committed his working life to helping others use their abilities and not be held back by disabilities or other workforce barriers,” said Brian Shull, former chair of the organization’s board.
“George was not afraid to take calculated risks to see this business grow. He dreams big, tries new things. He has that entrepreneurial spark, always looking for commercial opportunities to grow our customer base,” said Amanda Simmons, Friendship Industries’ chief financial officer.
Homan is known at Friendship Industries as a pragmatic problem-solver. “Perhaps it is just his curiosity and active mind at work,” said Simmons. “Nothing is beneath him, from the smallest details to the highest levels. He knew there was a practical solution to every problem, and he wouldn’t rest until he had found it and tried it. Sometimes we’d have to remind him, ‘George, get out of the weeds!’”
As the public face of Friendship Industries, Homan has a deep sense of ownership for the organization. He was a driving force behind the company’s 1999 move from Waterman Drive to their present facility at 801 Friendship Drive. He served as a major fundraiser and construction project manager for that ambitious project, drawing on his deep connections to this local community.
By appointment of former governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore, he served multiple terms on the State Rehabilitation Advisory Council. Six years ago Homan was the recipient of a Lifelong Public Servant Award presented by the JMU School of Public and International Affairs. He is also the recipient of the Virginia Association of Rehabilitation’s Norman C. Hammond Business Award for Innovation, and the Disabled Professional Person of the Year by the Pilot Club of Virginia. Although not a Rotarian, Homan was named a Paul Harris Fellow for living out the Rotary motto of Service Above Self.
Homan chaired the board for the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Historical Society and its Heritage Museum. He was recognized by the Harrisonburg City Schools for his 30 years of service on its Special Education Advisory Committee. He has served on many local boards, including Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development and The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Foundation. He was a member of Harrisonburg’s Planning Commission.
Ever an outdoorsman, Homan brings a service mindset to his hobbies of hunting and fishing. In 1996, as a member of the U.S. Wheelchair Shooting Team, he represented the U.S. in international competition in Finland. Homan also served as the first president of Virginia's Wheelin' Sportsmen Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. In 2002, he was named Volunteer of the Year by the National Wild Turkey Federation and in 2004, the Virginia Wheelin’ Sportsman Chapter awarded him a special recognition for dedication and advancement of programs.
“What I will miss the most is making the daily rounds, to check in with staff and employees, to see how things are going. And I will truly miss those magic moments when an employee will stop by my office and announce that they are leaving for a new job. They thank me for the opportunities that Friendship Industries gave them to grow and move on. That’s what our mission is all about,” said Homan.
Now with the freedom of a wide-open calendar and with 43 years of public service behind him, Homan and his wife Ann look forward to “spending time at our home in Mount Crawford and working through the to-do list,” said Homan. “And a little traveling from time to time.”
Source: Sandra Quigg, Director of Organizational Sustainability at Friendship Industries
Phone: 540.434.4451 Cell:540.476.5669 Fax: 540.434.1407
Sandra Quigg, Director of Organizational Sustainability at Friendship Industries