Melissa Warner, the CEO of Genaire Limited, in the company board room on Friday, March 1. - Beth Audet/Metroland
CEO Melissa Warner and her brother project manager Chris Warner inside one of Genaire's Niagara-on-the-Lake facilities. - Beth Audet/Metroland
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For Melissa Warner, being the CEO of Genaire Limited, an aerospace company in Niagara-on-the-Lake, doesn't feel groundbreaking.
In fact, she shies away from taking credit for herself and instead praises her brother Chris Warner, the company’s project manager, and her incredible team of employees.
But it is rare for a woman to lead such a company, she admitted. The aerospace industry remains fairly male-dominated.
“I think that other people have paved the way for me at this point,” she said from the company board room.
Her mother Lorraine was the company’s CEO for over 17 years before Melissa, and she recalled the days when she and her mom would go to meetings and be the only women in the room.
Now, she said, she can work alongside men and be treated as an equal instead.
On Nov. 3, 2017, Melissa and her brother purchased the company that was founded by their grandfather in 1951.
The siblings have made a number of changes since they took over, most noticeably to the production area, taking out walls and streamlining logistics, and less obviously, creating a culture of open communication and collaboration.
“I think one of the biggest things about being a CEO or being a manager is understanding you don’t know it all and you can’t do it all,” said Melissa, who, again, emphasized the value of having a great team.
Genaire Limited was recently featured in Skies Magazine where it was lauded as an industry problem-solver for hearing the challenges of its clients and finding creative workarounds.
Genaire doesn’t operate the typical glossy high-tech almost clinical mechanical or robotic facility you might expect from an aerospace company. That’s just not the type of work they do.
Instead, Melissa said they use skilled workers to hammer out important pieces still associated with a lot of old equipment that’s still out there, especially in the department of national defence.
Keeping an older kind of shop viable requires innovation and flexibility and a lot of communication. It’s no wonder the team works so well together, like a family, said Melissa.
“We have a strong team of people that we rely on.”
Her brother Chris was not so hesitant to give credit where credit is due and he quickly praised Melissa for how well she transitioned into a leadership role.
He described her as perseverant, hard-working, dedicated and said she’s gained respect from her employees by always listening to their concerns and suggestions.
But what amazes him, he said, is how she’s able to juggle being a CEO and a single mom simultaneously.
“It’s impressive … I give her a ton of credit for that.”
Beth Audet is a reporter and photographer covering the communities of north Niagara for Niagara This Week in addition to contributing to Niagara Life Magazine. She hails from Welland, where she studied journalism at Niagara College and interned at the Ottawa Citizen. After graduating, she journeyed to the B.C. interior to report about bears, wildfires and quilting guilds for the 100 Mile Free Press. She is thrilled to be back in Niagara.