National Machinery celebrates 145th anniversary

A couple of months ago, I had a really good conversation with Jeremy Speer, the new publisher at The Advertiser-Tribune, and Joanna Lininger, its new editor. We talked about where we came from, our shared passion for community, and how our organizations both are in the business of helping make Tiffin and Seneca County a great place. We also discussed interesting and new ways we could partner together. Writing opinion pieces like this is one such way.

One plan we hatched together is for our team at the Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership (TSEP) to contribute a new op-ed every month or so, updating the community on projects and activities, and to share our perspective.

The genesis of this article is National Machinery, which celebrated its 145th anniversary this past weekend. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), half of all businesses fail within the first five years. Two-thirds fail within 10, and only one in five make it to 10 years.

The Washington Times ran an article a few years ago entitled “Most companies don’t last 50 years…” So, what an incredible feat it is when companies last 100 years or longer. A hundred years ago, Ford’s Model T was the most popular car, bread was 10 cents, alcohol was illegal, movies were silent, women couldn’t vote, and there was no minimum wage. Can you even imagine it?

So, in my first editorial, I want to recognize some of the paragons of vision, work ethic, and dedication which have operated in our community for more than 100 years. In my next op-ed, I will continue this, as there are more than space allows, covering the likes of The Advertiser-Tribune itself, the Seneca Regional Chamber and Visitor Services, Kuebler Shoes, Ewald Furniture, McCartan’s, the Pioneer Mill, Weininger Family Dentistry, and several churches. Please contact me at zak@tiffinseneca.org with any I am missing so I can recognize them as well.

National Machinery was founded in 1874 with a desire to supply industry with the very best and latest machinery for making nuts and bolts, and it has grown to become the global leader and only remaining U.S. manufacturer of new cold forming machinery, with more than 600 employees worldwide. I find its commitment to community, invention of cold forging technology and its global reach in operations and export (its machines can be found in more than 130 countries) simply amazing.

Founded in Chicago in 1876 as a manufacturer of elevator buckets, Webster Industries relocated to Tiffin in 1907 and currently employs more than 350 in locally and in Mississippi and Oregon. Since beginning as a manufacturer of elevator buckets, the company has evolved to become a world leader in the production of engineered class chain, sprockets, vibrating conveyor and malleable cast iron. I love that it even has supplied chain to roller coasters at Cedar Point.

Tiffin Metal Products was established in 1903 as The Tiffin Art Metal Company, making ornamental steel ceiling panels and then billboards starting in the 1920s. Now they focus on specialty lockers, firearms racks, and gravity chutes for distribution centers, and it currently employs more than 100. It’s impressive that its lockers are going into U.S. embassies and its chutes are going into Amazon facilities around the world.

From its beginnings in 1901 as a drapery and scenery company for vaudeville and opera, Tiffin Scenic Studios has become one of the nation’s foremost stage and athletic rigging designers and manufacturers. It is noteworthy that its work can be found in places like Q Arena in Cleveland, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the National Institute for the Arts in Taipei.

Heidelberg University was established in 1850 and has become a premier Division III university. Tiffin University was established in 1888 and also has become a premier Division II university. Together, they have more than 4,000 students, 140 programs, 46 athletic teams, and 30,000 alumni. They employ more than 700 people, attract students from 40 countries, and make Tiffin only one of about five communities of our size with two private universities. Their continual investment, growth, and impact in the lives of students and in our community is inspiring.

The four-story brick Mercy Hospital of Tiffin was dedicated on Oct. 26, 1913 with the aim of caring for all people, regardless of “race, creed, or color.” The current $60 million hospital was constructed in 2008 and is part of the $9 billion Bon Secours Mercy Health system. Locally, it employs 400, and is not only admired for its services (cardiology, surgery, neurology, oncology, orthopedics, and more), but also for being consistently rated among the top hospitals in the nation.

St. Francis Senior Ministries began in 1867 when the Sisters of St. Francis established a home for orphans and older adults. Today, it is owned by the Congregation of St. Joseph’s Initiatives and sits on an inspiring 500-acre campus with a 132-bed assisted living facility, senior apartments, independent living units, as well as a convent, spirituality center, and earth literacy center.

Tiffin Developmental Center started out in 1896 as the National Orphans’ Home, helping an estimated 5,000 children sent there after their parents’ death. Purchased by the State of Ohio in 1981, it has come to serve as one of Ohio’s eight regional temporary residential placement facilities for adults with developmental disabilities on a beautiful 650-acre campus.

Several banks have very deep roots in our area as well. Sutton Bank was founded in Attica in 1878, serves four counties through eight branches, and has consistently been named one of the top small business and agricultural lenders in Ohio. The Republic Banking Company was started in 1906 in Republic and continues to be bank owned locally, providing great service to its community. Old Fort Banking Co. was incorporated in 1916 and has grown to become a regional community bank with more than $500 million in assets serving six counties in Northwest Ohio through its eleven financial centers.

It’s mind-boggling to think that the companies on this list represent more than a thousand combined years of commitment, dedication, and service to our community. We owe their past and current owners, leaders, and employees our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

To be continued…