“The Very Biggest Manufacturing Plant…in the World”

Front of BuildingIn the book An Odd Couple, author Charles Eisendrath provides the headlines from the February 13, 1907 Tiffin Advertiser, which made the announcement that Towner K. Webster  was moving his company Webster Industries from Chicago to Tiffin, Ohio:

“SECURED for Tiffin is the Very Biggest Manufacturing Plant of its Kind In This Country or in the World.”

Webster expanded the plant and got more headlines soon thereafter, and not much has changed since. The October 18, 2014 headlines in the Advertiser-Tribune read, “Webster expanding, adding local jobs.” Since Webster’s announcement of their $8+ million expansion plans, we thought it would be appropriate to provide a little backstory on this great company.

Their marketing tagline is “American materials, American labor and American pride.” Since 1876, Webster Industries has offered a wide range of products and expertise throughout many different markets. Founded by Towner K. Webster, Webster Industries initially opened in Chicago, Illinois in 1876, bringing to market his Common Sense Elevator Bucket. Webster Industries moved its headquarters to Tiffin, Ohio in 1907, where it still resides today. I find it very interesting that economic development was in full swing even back then. In the book, An Odd Couple, Charles Eisendrath sheds some light on the incentives offered at the time: Webster received an “offer of a free, 30-acre building site” from the “Tiffin Commercial Club,” the precursor to the Seneca Regional Chamber, which was founded in 1914 and led economic development until the creation of the Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC) in 1983.

Since its beginning making and marketing the elevator bucket, Webster Industries has evolved its product offerings since opening its doors, becoming one of the world’s leading manufacturers of engineered class chains, commercial castings, and vibrating conveyors. Webster Industries’ Tiffin headquarters consists of over 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Webster Industries has also helped to Site Selection Magazine rank Tiffin and Seneca County in the top 10 for large, private economic development projects. Webster Industries provided support for the ranking by providing 76 new jobs to the local area and investment plans of $3,000,000. The most recent expansion is in addition to that, which demonstrates how fast the company is growing.

To give the public a chance to see how their products are actually used, the company sponsored an “Our Chain in Action” contest over the summer. The contest gave Webster customers “a chance to let loose their inner Steven Spielberg” by creating a video that highlighted the many features of Webster’s conveyor and steel chain products. The contest ran from mid-July to mid-August. The top videos can be found on the Webster Industries website and the manufacturer’s YouTube channel. One example of a use is Cedar Point’s Blue Streak roller coaster. The amusement park’s oldest coaster, uses a Webster chain to lift riders up a 78 foot hill, before descending 72 feet and reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour (see video below).

Tiffin’s 9/11 memorial is a “must see”

All Patriots Memorial ParkThis week, I had the chance to spend some time at the All Patriots Memorial park in downtown Tiffin. Even though I previously had the chance to hear stories and read about it (and found it an amazing story), being there was a deeply moving experience.

The story is a good one. In August 2011, Tiffin was honored to be one of the select communities to receive a 17.5′ long, 6,268 pound piece of American history–a steel beam from the World Trade Center destroyed in terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. A group of police and fire fighters as well as community members got together, raised more than $375,000 locally in goods, services, and donations to make the 16,000 square foot Tiffin Police and Fire All Patriots Memorial a reality. It was dedicated on September 9, 2012.

The site is full of symbolism:

  • The date – The beam is set in granite at a 9.11 degree angle.
  • The message – the words “Never Forget” are carved in huge letters on the setting and the phrase is used for national tragedies like 9/11.
  • New York – the World Trade Center beam in the center still has the investigator’s ID written on it (“M-18”)
  • New York – a Callery Pear tree, the same type as the Survivor Tree, has been planted at the site.
  • Pentagon – The granite setting’s pentagon shape evokes the Pentagon attack.
  • Pennsylvania (Flight 93) – a granite posts displays “In memory of Flight 93.”
  • Pennsylvania (Flight 93) – the post is 40″ high, representing the 40 passengers and crew members who lost their lives.
  • Pennsylvania (Flight 93) – there a dirt mound that represents the pile at the actual crash sight.
  • Police & Fire – the names of Tiffin police and fire forces who fell in the line of duty is carved on the granite as well.
  • Police & Fire – on one side of the US flag is the National Fallen Police flag; on the other the National Fallen Firefighters flag.

What I find even more significant is that this site has become a place for the community to not only remember 9/11 but also to come together to grieve and mourn other local and national tragedies, such as the Newtown, Connecticut shootings in December 2012.

Here are some additional pictures I snapped during my visit:


Together We Grow – 1992 Video

I discovered this video done by SIEDC on YouTube this week (shout out to the Seneca News Daily for posting it last fall.) I thought it was worth posting because so much of it–more than 20 years later–is still accurate. There’s a tremendous amount of progress that has taken place, but the great qualities of the universities, parks, river, downtown, industry, Ritz Theatre, YMCA, Heritage Festival, and the great friendly nature of Tiffinites are still as true today as they were in 1992. In the words of my predecessor Rich Focht: “Not only is Tiffin Ohio a great place to live, but Tiffin is a great place to do business and develop new business.”

The hairstyles may be one of the things that have changed., though :)

Kudos to Rich Focht, Karen Bowers, and others in the community who did a nice job on this project.