UPPER SANDUSKY - Nearing the end of its 75th anniversary, Schmidt Machine Co. is looking back to its past, but forging ahead toward the future.
The business, 7013 SR 199, Lovell, near Upper Sandusky, employs four generations of the Schmidt family among its 50 employees.
Now 80, Bill Schmidt Jr. can remember helping his father since about age 10.
Schmidt's father, Bill Sr., started the business in 1928 by doing general repairs on tractors and farm implements in his machine shop.
"He started in his summer kitchen behind the house where he lived, and he was there for a couple of years," Schmidt said. "And then he came here in this area at the far end of this building. There was a one-room schoolhouse. He set up shop in that."
Shortly after starting his machine shop, the founder purchased an 80-acre farm, while continuing to farm his father-in-law's 160 acres.
Even in the early years, he liked to tinker. The Schmidt family was the first in Ohio to put rubber tires on a tractor in 1932.
In 1934, Bill Sr. moved his machine shop into an old schoolhouse in Lovell and started selling Wallis tractors. Soon after, in 1935, the district manager of Massey-Harris approached Bill and his brother Ivan to start selling Massey tractors.
In 1936, Schmidt said his father moved his dealership to Carey, where he rented an old dance floor.
"It was a pretty big building and he was in it for close to four years," Schmidt said. "But then decided to come back here (to Lovell)."
He built a 50x50 building and expanded the repair and sales parts of the business.
"About the time he came back here I was 10 years old. That was in 1940," Schmidt said. "Naturally, I started remembering quite a bit of stuff that went on because I became a part of it."
He spent a lot of time there after school.
In 1947-48, Bill Sr., his brother Lawrence and friend Herbert Walton took on a challenge.
"One of his farmer friends asked him if he could build a four-wheel-drive tractor," Schmidt said.
So they built it.
"He took on that request and, with his brother Lawrence (who also worked there), they proceeded to build this large tractor that could pull I think an eight-bottom plow or something like that," he said.
"It was much before its time," he said. "But they built about a half dozen more smaller versions of that four-wheel-drive they sold to farmers."
In summer 1957, Schmidt mechanics were the first to put a corn head on a grain combine.
Later, Bill Jr. and his father mounted rebuilt model A Ford engines on pull-type combines and manufactured a reduction gear box and a governor to control speed.
Keeping up with technology has always been important to the business, Schmidt said. Through the years, the office was computerized.
"That's what you have to do to keep things active and going for future sales and all that kind of stuff," Schmidt said. "Computerization within the office came naturally, because if you don't you're getting behind."
The largest investment was made in the mid-1990s.
"In 1995 we bought a laser cutting machine because we built parts that we sold for different makes of harvesting machinery - for replacement parts," he said. "This laser machine would cut these parts out that we needed much faster."
The laser expanded business into the automotive industry, which also needed parts made.
"We think we were one of the first to have it in this area," he said. "It was about a half-million dollars."
But the investment was worth it, he said.
The machine runs beyond an eight-hour workday to keep up with demand.
Schmidt employs 50 people and continues to expand.
"Our expansion is done basically by ourselves with our own employees and my brother-in-law Larry Fruth, who also works here," Schmidt said. "He's been instrumental is doing of a lot of the expansion."
At 80, Schmidt remains active.
"On the books I've been retired since I was 70 years old, but I come in here every day that I can and leave whenever I want to."
His son, Randy Schmidt, now serves as president, and grandson Josh Schmidt is in sales. Many other relatives are counted among employees.
Today, SMC - which the company now is often called - sells retail to farmers, mainly in Ohio and Michigan, and does wholesale work for other businesses in a much wider area.
The company has five departments - parts, laser and fabrication, tractor and combine service, sales, and machining and welding. The sales department is one of the oldest Massey Ferguson/AGCO dealerships in the region.