LOCHEM – Nijha Lochem acquired the original “Hoof Supplier” 2 weeks ago. That celebratory moment was used to announce to the world that owners Kees van Marion and Rob Zwiers will be stepping down from their board memberships on January 1st. “It’s time to give space to the new generation,” is one of the arguments.
By Henry Bruntink
Case Van Marion joined the company in early 1984, after being selected to work as a junior actor out of 1,352 applicants. A few years later he became the chief of the county. In the early 1990s, he made the switch to American Little Tikes. This play and play equipment company was already working closely with Nijha and Van Marion was asked to become product manager in Europe.
“During my time on Little Tikes, I had a lot of contact with Nijha. In 1999, co-owner Gert Kroon wanted to move back to Australia, where he had lived long before Nijha’s time. That was the reason I took over Kroon shares and joined in Same time to management,” says Van Marion. Four years later, then-general manager Henny Nijenhuis announced that he wanted to stop. Van Marion took over the management – together with Nigenhuys – and hired Rob Zwers from Debenheim as the finance man. first as a controller, but Zwers eventually acquired shares of Nijenhuis and thus became a co-owner and member of the board of directors along with Van Marion.
With Henny Nijenhuis, the last of his family locked Nijha’s door behind him. After all, Nijha originally stood for “Nijenhuis Harfsen”. It started in 1922 as a village blacksmith shop. “The DNA of the family business is still in Nijha and we hope to keep it that way,” says Kees van Marion. Starting in January, Van Marion and Zwers will be part of a newly formed advisory board. “We want to give the new generation space and not get in their way too much,” Zwers says. “We set yield requirements and advise where necessary, but otherwise they do it themselves,” Van Marion adds.
In this case “they” are Frank Cruz and Henke van de Stege. The former is currently Chief Operating Officer and will become Managing Director. Van de Steeg is the finance guy and as such succeeds Rob Zwiers. The outgoing duo is very confident. They have put together a five-year plan and it looks promising. The new generation is more focused on results. That’s fine, but we also like to remain that ‘little company’ where everyone interacts with each other in a friendly way,” says Case Van Marion.
The new administration will have a huge job to do in the coming years. Nijha has known for years that she should move away from her current location in Hanzeweg. A new Koop van Ost area is being built there. The municipality bought the building and the land several years ago. At first, Wila and Nijha were to build new buildings together on Kwinkweerd, but it soon became apparent that Wila needed that entire land to make room for expansion.
Since then, Nijha has been targeting the Diekink Business Park, which is being developed in the armpit of Rossweg and Rengersweg. That’s a long wait. An objection from local residents had been waiting for two years to be considered by the State Council. When it will be introduced is unknown. The Crown has a long delay in dealing with such issues. Mayor Sebastien van Erff says setting priorities for the State Council is ambiguous. He says: “We cannot stress enough that processing cases like this faster is very important. For the company that wants to move forward, but also for us as a municipality that wants to keep the employer.” Ngha employs 90 people.
space for movement
In the years when Kees van Marion has been active in Nijha he has seen a shift from 80 percent of his own production to about 20 percent now. Parts such as sports floors and grandstands were also eliminated. Trade in all conceivable items for sports and games now forms the major part. From balls to complete equipment for gyms and courts. And the motto: “Make room for movement.” It is estimated that around 3 million Dutch people use Nijha products every week.
Since the new construction is still some time away, the management has recently made a drastic decision. Recently, 680 solar panels were installed on the roof. “Some thought we were crazy to do it now, but something had to be done. Our energy bill is threatened to go up by several tons,” Van Marion explains. These are panels that would otherwise be unnecessary elsewhere and not permanently attached to the roof. “So they can move with you when the time is right. And moving is not necessary just because the municipality has plans for the land. It seems that ‘the jacket no longer matches the content’.”
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