[[Click here for more information on the 2008 Manny Awards]]

THE 2008 WINNERS

New Job Creation
The Metalworking Group
TSS Technologies Inc.
Victory Industrial Products LLC

Best Places To Work
Gallatin Steel Company
General Tool Company
Melink Corporation

New Product Development/Innovation
Batesville Casket Co.
Cold Jet LLC.
Fecon Inc.

Biggest Breakthrough
Greg G. Wright & Sons LLC
Richards Industries
AK Steel

Top Growth
Multi-Color Corp.
Nolte Precise Manufacturing Inc.
Enerfab Inc.

Manufacturing Excellence
Manufacturing is alive and well in the Tristate, and the Cincy Manny Awards are here to celebrate that fact.
Cincinnati actually tops the list of Ohio cities for manufacturing (99,700 jobs in factory plants followed by Cleveland with 80,637 jobs and Columbus with 56,282 jobs). And no less than the Cincinnati USA Partnership has identified advanced manufacturing as the No. 1 “industry cluster” in the market (a cluster is defined as the number of companies in a given industry that are growing jobs).

On the following pages, we celebrate 15 Greater Cincinnati companies of all sizes, ages and ownerships that have exhibited success in the areas of adding new jobs, creating great workplaces, designing new products, making a breakthrough and charting growth. Judging for the Mannys was conducted by an independent panel representing various sectors. Winners will be honored at a gala banquet on May 13 at the Schiff Conference Center at Xavier University.

In this, the second annual Manny Awards, we highlight not only the winners listed here, but many other companies that are worth watching.

New Job Creation
2008 manny award winner
TSS Technologies Inc.

Location: West Chester and Woodlawn
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1948
Local employees: 490
CEO/President: Brent Nichols
Web address: www.tss.com
Manufactures: Equipment for major industries

From Small Shop to 490 Workers
Much has changed for TSS Technologies Inc. since it was founded. In 1948, it was a tiny tooling distribution and service shop in St. Bernard with three employees. Today, it is a national leader in the design, engineering and manufacture of components and assemblies, with four Cincinnati-area plants and also one in China. TSS serves numerous industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, aviation power and marine. It’s all rooted in a proud Midwestern machining tradition, and grows from an unwavering commitment to superior quality, workmanship and service. With respected customers such as Procter and Gamble, General Electric and Siemens, TSS’s Ohio operations are flourishing. In the past two years, the company has added more than 120 new jobs.
Marcy Lisle

The Metalworking Group2008 manny award winner
Location: Cincinnati
Private or public: Private
Founded: 2000
Local employees: More than 200
CEO/President: Mike Schmitt
Web address: www.metalworkinggroup.com
Manufactures: Fabricated, machined and stamped metal parts

Investing in Employees
The Metalworking Group, a custom manufacturer of fabricated, machined and stamped metal parts, is a trusted supplier to some of the biggest companies in the United States, but it operates with a simple philosophy.
“We understand that it is our customers who determine whether or not we are successful,” says Doug Watts, vice president of finance. “We are only as good as our last order.”
That commitment to retaining customers has yielded great results — even in the face of strong domestic and foreign competition. The firm created 53 new jobs last year alone. “It is our top-line growth that enables us to hire more people, invest in our business and reward our employees.”
The Metalworking Group, run by CEO and owner Mike Schmitt, stresses that it provides a safe, clean workplace for employees. The company offers excellent benefits, and its growth has provided advancement opportunities for the staff, according to Watts.
—Marcy Lisle

Victory Industrial Products LLC2008 manny award winner
Location: Batavia
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1985
Local employees: 220
CEO/President: Dale Freeman
Web address: www.victoryindustrialproducts.com
Manufactures: Equipment for power generators

Workforce Doubles In Just One Year
Last year was a milestone marker for Victory Industrial Products. The firm, which was started in 1985 in the garage of founders Dale and Bonnie Freeman, moved to a new 120,000-square-foot facility.
Located on more than 10 acres in Batavia, the building allows the company to better serve its customers’ needs while providing a superior work environment for more than 220 employees. (The growing firm added more than 100 employees in 2007 alone.) It also houses more than $1 million in newly purchased state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment.
Last May, Victory announced a partnership with WHI Capital Partners, a Chicago-based private equity group that invests in companies that are market leaders, profitable and well-operated.
Over its 23-year history, the company has evolved from making trailers for specialty applications to a leading design and manufacturing firm that specializes in equipment for both standby and peak-shaving power generators, including custom enclosures, fuel tanks and accessories.
“Victory was founded on one fundamental principal: Treat others as you would want to be treated,” says Bonnie Freeman.
- Marcy Lisle

Best Places To Work

Melink Corporation2008 manny award winner
Location: Milford
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1987
Local employees: 45
CEO/President: Steve Melink
Web address: www.melinkcorp.com
Manufactures: Intelli-Hood energy-saving controls for commercial kitchen ventilation systems
 
Valuing Employee Well-being
The Melink Corporation’s business focus on energy efficiency has translated into corporate values that make it a great place to work. When company founder and president Steve Melink built his company headquarters in Union Township, he integrated energy efficiency into every aspect of building design.
The building won recognition as Ohio’s first Gold Certified LEED building design and serves as a role model for other companies that want to go green. “We take great pride in the fact that we have positioned ourselves as a leader in the green movement. For us, it is about being part of the solution and understanding that the actions we take today will have a direct impact on our children tomorrow,” Melink says. (Visit www.cincymagazine.com for Steve Melink’s tips on “How To Go Green.”
—Alisia Davis

Gallatin Steel Company2008 manny award winner
Location: Ghent
Private or public: Private
Founded:1 995
Local employees: 460
CEO/President: Don Daily
Web address: www.gallatinsteel.com  
Manufactures: Flat rolled steel coils

Cultivating a Successful Environment
Gallatin Steel Company proves once again that it’s a great place to work. A company that focuses on people, the firm stresses the importance o good relationships both in the office and community.
For employees at Gallatin Steel, personal growth and advancement within the company go hand in hand. The firm offers managerial training courses, provides associates with self-study books and other resources to help them gain the technical knowledge and additional skills they need to advance, and even provides skill-based pay for any hourly employee meeting the requirements. “Our goal is to foster an environment for all our employees to succeed,” Don Daily, president and CEO, explains. “We give everyone the opportunity to be promoted, not just a minor few.”
Gallatin Steel is constantly finding new ways to give back to the community. In the last three years, the company has donated $120,000 to Gallatin County Schools to support academic and athletic programs. They award numerous scholarships each year to both children of employees as well as local college students. The company participates in various co-op programs with the local colleges and hosts a “Ground Hog Job Shadow Day.”
—Alisia Davis

General Tool Company2008 manny award winner

Location: Cincinnati
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1947
Local employees: 220
CEO/President: William J. Kramer Jr.
Web address: www.gentool.com
Manufactures: Aerospace tooling and fixtures, plant equipment, auto components, appliances, medical devices, turbine systems, printing presses, other machines

Investing in the Future

General Tool Company has a long heritage of being educationally driven. As founder and CEO of the company, William J. Kramer, Jr. emphasizes the importance of continuing education and individual skill development in many ways: offering shop mathematics, blueprint reading, geometric tolerance and dimensioning classes to all interested employees.
Most notably, GTC employees are able to receive 100 percent tuition reimbursement if they choose a curriculum consistent with their career path.
Kramer even established a strong alliance between GTC and the Cincinnati school systems in order to expose the community and potential employees to the world of advanced manufacturing. Vocational students participating in the pre-engineering program are provided shop tours, job shadowing opportunities and co-op positions for juniors and seniors.
—Alisia Davis

New Product Development/Innovation

Batesville Casket Company
2008 manny award winner
Location: Batesville, IN
Private or public: Subsidiary of Publicly Traded Hillenbrand, Inc. (NYSE: HI)
Founded: 1906
Local employees: 1,100
CEO/President: Kenneth A. Camp
Web address: www.hillenbrand.com
Manufactures: Funeral products including burial caskets and cremation urns and caskets
 
Celebrating the Individual
Batesville Casket Company — one of the largest manufacturing companies in the Tristate — has surpassed many challenges since John A. Hillenbrand rescued a casket company from bankruptcy 100 years ago. After rising to the position of an industry leading national provider of burial caskets and cremation products, Batesville today employs approximately 3,300 workers (about 1,100 working locally).
Some of the new products and innovations include the introduction of the patented MemorySafe® drawer for memorabilia and keepsakes. For the environmentally sensitive customers, the firm has introduced the patented Werzalit® molded wood technology. And LifeSymbol® designs can be added to caskets, customizing to a loved one’s spirituality or branch of service.
“We know that consumers are looking for new ways to add personal touches that make every ceremony a unique celebration of an individual’s life experience,” notes Michael DiBease, vice president of marketing. “It’s our business to provide new, innovative products ... so families can honor the lives of those they love in the most meaningful way.”
—Felix Winternitz

Fecon Inc.2008 manny award winner
Location: Lebanon
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1992
Local employees: 130
CEO/President: John Heekin
Web address: www.fecon.com
Manufactures: Mulching machines
 
All About Improving the Land
Fecon Inc. is the world leader for vegetation management — or, more to the point, mulching and stump grinding. Fecon is an international supplier of FTX Track Carriers, Tree Shears, Grapples, Stump Grinders and The Bull Hog®, the No. 1 selling brush cutter in the world.
The company says that the FTX148-L Track Carrier with the Bull Hog® mulcher reduces trees, brush and wood quickly, safely and at the lowest possible cost. All with minimal environmental impact.
The U.S. military is using Fecon’s Bull Hog® excavator attachments in Iraq for line-of-sight clearing. State agencies are using Bull Hog® mulchers for invasive species control, park trails and border clearing.
“Fecon’s patented tool system provides unparallel cutting performance for mulching attachments,” notes marketing manager Traci Wiseman, who adds that the company is breaking ground next month on a 60,000-square-foot facility that will more than double the factory space.
—Felix Winternitz

Cold Jet LLC.2008 manny award winner
Location: Loveland
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1980
Local employees: 100
CEO/President: Eugene Cook
Web address: www.coldjet.com
Manufactures: Dry ice blast cleaning systems

Cleaning Is a Blast
Cold Jet LLC. launched its new Aero C100 last year, combining a powerful cleaning system with the mobility and flexibility of an all-pneumatic system that can be used virtually anywhere, without the need for electricity.
These dry ice blast cleaning systems are used in industries across the world, replacing current cleaning technologies with an environmentally friendly process that doesn’t depend on hazardous solvents that can endanger the safety of workers.
“This new product uses recycled CO2 as a cleaning medium, making it environmentally superior to competitors,” says Betsey Seibel, a spokesperson for the company. All-terrain wheels and a zero-degree turning radius make it very easily pushed anywhere.
“We’ve utilized advanced technology to ensure that the Aero C100 provides superior cleaning and is twice as fast as many other blast systems available,” adds Cold Jet president and CEO Eugene Cooke. He points out the Aero Tech Nozzle System employs pulse-free stream technology used by NASA, a SureFlow System that eliminates clogging.
—Felix Winternitz

Biggest Breakthrough

AK Steel2008 manny award winner
Location: West Chester
Private or public: Public
Founded: 1899
Local employees: 2,400
CEO/President: James Wainscott
Web address: www.aksteel.com
Manufactures: Carbon, stainless and electrical steel

Skyrocketing to the Top
Facing the challenge of historically high raw material and energy costs, as well as subsidized foreign competition, AK Steel quickly realized that action needed to be taken in order to sustain profitability. In 2003, the company found itself $652 million in debt. However, a mere four years later, it boasted an impressive $624 million profit for the year 2007.
The company re-emerged as a competitive leader in the steel industry by negotiating new competitive labor contracts with all of its unions, which enabled it to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. It worked with suppliers to find innovative ways to lower costs and completed a series of significant liability-reduction initiatives in 2007. Those initiatives resulted in the company’s redemption of $450 million in debt that was due in 2009. By 2007, AK Steel was even able to make three early contributions to the pension trust fund totaling $250 million. James L. Wainscott, AK Steel chairman, president and CEO says, “For AK Steel, 2007 was a breakthrough year.”
—Alisia Davis

Richards Industries2008 manny award winner

Location: Cincinnati
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1961
Local employees: 150
CEO/President: Gilbert Richards, chairman; Bruce Broxterman, president
Web address: www.richardsind.com
Manufactures: Industrial valves
 
Going with the Flow
Richards Industries, a company that prides itself on an aggressive program to develop new products and technology, recently found itself overloaded with ideas and lacking a process to move these ideas steadily through development. In 2007, the company teamed up with Eureka! Ranch in Newtown, a training and consulting facility that emphasizes disciplined growth and teaches the application of systematic thinking.
During the sessions at Eureka! Ranch, Richards Industries employees were able to successfully whittle down the hundreds of ideas they brainstormed and discover a hidden gem within their Jordan Valve product line. Given the recent emergence of the biotech markets, the company realized that its sanitary valve line had great potential for growth. Executives decided to pull out the sanitary valve line, rename it “Steriflow,” and develop it as a stand-alone line with its own product manager, product logo, identity and focus. For its work, the firm won the “2007 Innovation Award” fromFlow Control Magazine.
—Alisia Davis

Greg G. Wright & Sons LLC2008 manny award winner

Location: Cincinnati
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1860
Local employees: 26
CEO/President: Carl Fries
Web address: www.gregwrightandsons.com
Manufactures: Marking devices, engraved stamps and dies, roll dies, coins, tags, tokens

New Machines = A Brighter Future
Founded in 1860, Greg G. Wright & Sons’ long-standing history was often seen as an asset. It became the very thing that threatened the company’s future, though, when the firm found itself working with old machine systems and unable to meet the demands of 20th-century manufacturing processes.
“When the Wright family asked me to assist in the operation of the company, they were in a position where the previous family owner had not made a significant investment in machinery in more than 40 years,” describes Carl Fries, president and CEO. “I worked with the existing employees and leadership to develop a new direction for the organization. Together, we disposed of 20 to 35 outdated machines, discontinued operations of unprofitable product lines and set to work on a new vision.”
It wasn’t until the sales and marketing group began work on a new web site that things really began to come together. “Our strategic relationship with Thomas Publishing opened new doors for us to properly promote our operation to potential new customers,” Fries notes. “Not a week goes by now that we don’t get a new inquiry for ... work.”
—Alisia Davis

Top Growth

Multi-Color Corp.2008 manny award winner

Location: Cincinnati
Private or public: Public
Founded: 1916
Local employees: 200
CEO/President: Francis D. Gerace
Web address: www.multicolorcorp.com
Manufactures: Primary decorative labels

Labeled a Success
Multi-Color Corp. may not be a household name, but it’s definitely on the lips of corporations worldwide that seek a better way to make their products identifiable to consumers.
Founded in 1916, Multi-Color, headquartered in Sharonville, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of product labels. From Tide and Folgers to Miller Lite and Arizona Tea, products of every design and type pass their way through a Multi-Color production line, where the vital work of branding begins. Multi-Color has enjoyed a compound annual growth rate of more than 25 percent for five years straight, and that pace shows no sign of slowing. “Our biggest challenge is and will continue to be delivering results and exceeding the expectations of our customers and shareholders,” says Dirk Edwards, director of marketing.
—Rodney Beckwith

Enerfab Inc.2008 manny award winner

Location: Cincinnati
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1901
Local employees: 370
Chairman: Dave Herche
Web address: www.enerfab.com
Manufactures: Fabrications
 
Diversifying Expansion
Many American manufacturers have learned that expanding its range of products and customers is essential for survival, and important for success. That’s proven true for Enerfab Inc., a multi-divisional fabrication business.
“The reason we’re busy today is because we’re so diversified,” explains Ashley Davies, business development manager. “We’re making pollution control equipment for power plants, and that will keep us busy. We do a lot of work for chemical and pharmaceutical companies, and we have orange juice projects going on down in Florida and overseas.”
The company began in 1901 as a producer of brewer’s pitch, the resinous stuff used to keep beer barrels from leaking. Today, Enerfab is a bigger player in the food and beverage industry, and several others. As a custom fabrication company, Enerfab produces a range of steel containers and other items. The beer connection lives on in ENERFAB products for breweries, such as mash cookers, brew kettles and steel piping, along with the control equipment to run it all.
Over the past five years, the firm enjoyed revenue growth of 93 percent, fed in part by a four-year plan to manufacture pollution control equipment for power plants. Enerfab also is exploring ways to incorporate ethanol and solar power for alternative energy industries.
Rodney Beckwith

Nolte Precise Manufacturing Inc.2008 manny award winner

Location: Colerain Township
Private or public: Private
Founded: 1916
Local employees: 60
CEO/President: Robert Coster
Web address: www.nolteprecise.com
Manufactures: Custom metalworking

Speeding Upward

Growth isn’t an option for Nolte Precise Manufacturing Inc. — it’s a necessity. Established 92 years ago, the family business is a player in the competitive custom metalworking industry where, if you cannot keep up with customer demand, you lose. Doug Coster, vice president, is in the fourth generation to lead the privately owned company. Coster remains focused on meeting and expanding the number of contracts Nolte can process. That means increasing the speed and capacity of its machining capabilities.
“Nolte Precise is a contract manufacturer with an objective to assist companies in lowering their total parts cost of ownership and providing a reliable and responsive supply base,” Coster says. This approach has paid off for Nolte, with its gross revenues nearly quadrupling since 2002. That growth led to the creation of 39 new local jobs in five years, including nine in 2007 alone. Recently, the company invested more than $3 million into its facility.
—Rodney Beckwith