Johnson Controls names Innovation Center after Roell

Johnson Controls Inc. named its global Innovation Center in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward after outgoing chief executive officer Stephen Roell in a ceremony Tuesday night.

Roell retired as chief executive officer on Oct. 1.

Inspired by the history of innovation started by company founder Warren Johnson, Roell founded the Johnson Controls Innovation Center in 2013 with a vision to continually transform and renew the company by pursuing new ideas that deliver value to customers.

The center serves as a catalyst to support Johnson Controls employees, customers, suppliers and other partners as they find the innovation that creates business results.

“One of the most enduring aspects of Steve Roell’s legacy as CEO was his passion and commitment to fostering a culture of innovation,” said Alex Molinaroli, who succeeded Roell as CEO of Johnson Controls. “Steve laid a tremendous foundation for our company to grow and naming our Innovation Centers after him is one way we hope to honor his leadership.”

Roell joined Johnson Controls in 1982. From 1991 to 2004, he served as senior vice president and chief financial officer. He was elected executive vice president in 2004, and a year later was named vice chairman. Roell became CEO in 2007.

Roell said, “Innovation is not invention, it’s how we create value.”

There are about eight full-time employees at the Third Ward Innovation Center, and another 60 or 70 people, mostly Johnson Controls employees, come through each day for the Innovation Catalyst Program. The program aims to inspire innovation throughout the company.

About 420 employees from 26 countries have been trained there since the center opened in May 2012. More than $1 billion in new opportunities have been identified through the global innovation centers.

Roell said he was proud and honored at the plaque unveiling Tuesday evening.

“I do believe innovation is key,” he said. “If I look at our future and our growth, innovation has been the cornerstone. It symbolizes our ability to collaborate with our customers.”

Milwaukee was a starting point for the Innovation Centers, Roell said. There has been a lot of interest around the world in replicating the model.

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