LOVELAND — A modest, genteel woman, Kathryn “Kitty” Hach-Darrow is more likely to be associated with her inauspicious start on a Missouri farm than her role as CEO of a major corporation.
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Hach-Darrow, winner of the 2003 Bravo! Entrepreneur lifetime achievment award, was president, chief operating officer and CEO of the Loveland-based Hach Company — a global public firm focused on water analysis and testing that she and her husband, Clifford, founded in 1947. Clifford died in 1990, and until the firm’s sale in 1999, she oversaw daily business operations, marketing and other managerial aspects of the company.
Hach products have enabled municipal water suppliers around the world to assure the quality of drinking water, monitor sewage treatment and improve water reclamation.
Legendary in her field
Hach-Darrow is legendary in her field for flying a small private plane to cities and towns around the country to work on-site with managers of water-treatment facilities. She sold her company for $355 million in stock and assumed debt to Washington, D.C.-based Danaher Corp.
Hach-Darrow was the first woman director of the American Water Works Association and the first woman to serve as director of First National Bank of Loveland. She has been awarded numerous honors, including the American Water Works Association’s George Fuller Award (with her husband), an Outstanding Business Leader award from Northwood University and the 2003 Pittcon Heritage Award.
She also spent a good portion of her time giving back to the community. In 1982, the Hachs established the Hach Scientific Foundation to support science education by sponsoring student tuition and teacher education.
But you’d never know any of that from meeting her.
“She’s such a gracious, unassuming woman that I didn’t even know who she was the first couple of times I attended meetings with her,´ said Susan Ison, director of the Loveland Museum and Gallery, who was in Zonta (a businesswomen’s service organization) with Hach-Darrow. “Certainly she was an inspiration to the women in our group, but she was one of those people that was a role model whether you ever meet them or not.”
Despite being “the boss,” Hach-Darrow was also known for being very down-to-earth at work.
Gary Dreher has worked at Hach Co. for 25 years, spending the last 10 as chief financial officer. He worked with Hach-Darrow on a daily basis before her retirement.
Concern for employees
“That she had a keen sense of business goes without saying,” Dreher said. “But what I remember the most is her concern for employees. She knew all of them by name and would take time to talk to them no matter how busy she was.”
When Hach left the company, it had about 1,000 employees.
The Loveland facility houses corporate headquarters, research and development laboratories and instrument manufacturing operations. A plastics division and the Hach Technical Training Center are also based in Loveland. More than 500 Hach employees work in Loveland. About 300 employees at the company’s facility in Ames, Iowa, manufacture and package all chemical reagents and test kits and fill customer orders from the main warehouse there.
In addition, Hach has a European office in D?sseldorf, Germany, that serves as a distribution and support center for customers in Europe and Mediterranean Africa. In 1998, the company expanded portable testing capabilities with the acquisition of Environmental Test Systems Inc., in Elkhart, Ind. ETS develops, manufactures and markets diagnostic test strips for both consumer and industrial applications.
Employees credit Hach-Darrow with much of the company’s success.
“She has a tremendous can-do attitude,´ said Steve Farnam, who worked at Hach for 17 years, during which he served as director of purchasing and materials and community relations director. “The hallmarks of her demeanor are being energetic and having a positive attitude.
“I used to say that if the building burned down, she would stand in the ashes and say ?Well, we needed to remodel anyway.'”
Hach-Darrow made a big impression on a personal level as well.
“She was one of the nicest ladies you’ll ever meet,´ said Don Churchwell, CEO of Home State Bank. “They just don’t make them any better than her.”
Hero was Amelia Earhart
Known to most as “Kitty,” Hach-Darrow was an avid pilot whose hero was Amelia Earhart.
“She not only flew seven of us up to Montana for a conference,´ said Carol Gattis, a travel agent who was also active in the now disbanded Zonta, “she made us breakfast and brought it along.”
Her giving nature is evident on a much larger scale, Gattis said.
“She is a gracious and lovely lady who is very gracious of heart,” Gattis said. “She has done a lot for Loveland.”
Gattis also remembers Hach-Darrow’s sense of humor.
“Her husband called ahead to the airport and told the air traffic controller that there was a plane coming in with eight ladies on board and the pilot’s name was Kitty Hach (pronounced “Hawk”),” Gattis said. “We all got a big laugh out of that.”