ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Marion Manufacturing, Inc., may come close to being the ideal industry any community would want.
A visitor to Marion might not even guess the high-tech employer of 42 full-time employees is there just a block off Main Street behind the grocery store and veterinary clinic.
Plus, the company is family owned and run by Jack Richmond, a man whom Susan Cooper, city development director, calls a “true visionary.”
“He’s able to look at a business decision, and see what it will do for his community as well as how it will affect his company,” Cooper said. “He has the knack that not every businessman has, to look around him, and see the big picture.
“Marion Manufacturing’s a homegrown business, and the city appreciates the stability and understanding a company like that has for its community. It shows all those entrepreneurs who are trying to get off the ground that they can possibly do well starting here.
“It’s not that we don’t appreciate those businesses that move in from the outside, but we absolutely recognize that Marion Manufacturing is one of our best assets.”
Inside the company, Tom Stout, general manager, said the people who work there see it somewhat the same way. Stout said there is an emphasis on creativity, a mastery of technology while still being able to cross-work jobs, “and we try to have fun.”
Stout himself said he came to work from his home in McPherson to “fill in for a couple of weeks, and ended up staying six years.”
Schools in Marion and Hillsboro have made use of the company, sending industrial vo-tech students in for “on-the-job training.”
In addition to the regular work force, Stout said the company hires farmers who want to work in their off-season on a regular basis and other part-time temporaries.
Extra education for work was provided employees when the company received an $11,000 state grant, which it was required to match, for training in such fields as drafting, a benefit Stout said the company will try for again.
“We’re pleased with the quality and reliability of people we have here.
“We’ve been able to have security with good benefits for our regular workers without layoffs even in down economic times. It’s been a little slow, but never off more than 1 or 2 percent. It’s amazing how Jack and the people here have gone beyond the usual in dependability,” Stout said.
Design and creativity have helped Marion Manufacutring develop a reputation for high-tech sophisticated work in building computer controlled automation metal roll-forming equipment from scratch for companies across the country, from Florida to the West Coast with heavier concentrations on the East Coast and the Midwest, Stout said.
Customer credits include doing all the cheese shaker lids for Pizza Hut, machined parts and assemblies for Alstom Power, tooling press and tooling for Case Corporation, machined parts for Cashco, Inc., machined parts for Caterpillar, designs and proto-type parts for Certainteed Plastics, designs and automation equipment for Enersys, Inc., automation, weld fixtures and other work for Hay & Forage, roll-forming equipment for J.A. Brewer Enterprises, Inc., machined wheel parts for Marsh Racing Technologies, designs, machined parts, shears and assemblies for Mega Mfg., Inc., designs, automation equipment and stamped parts for Midtec, Inc., assembly and check fixtures for plastic for Norland Plastics Co., automated battery acid filling equipment for north Star Battery Co., roll-forming and shearing equipment for Richard N. Paul & Sons, designs and automation equipment for Rubbermaid Specialty Products, roll forming and shearing equipment for Steell Building Supply, designs and automation equipment for The Coleman Co., roll forming and shearing equipment for Union Corrugating Co., designs and automation equipment for Vanguard Industries, and others.
Richmond began manufacturing in Marion in the mid-1970s from an old blacksmith shop in the west part of town as Marion Die & Fixture with partners, Roger Hoffman, John Crofoot and Dave Crofoot. That company still operates from a newer building in the west part of Marion under the ownership of Bradbury Co., Inc.
Richmond left there to open Marion Manufacturing in October 1979, with his wife, Joyce, who still works in the mornings. They are still the owners with Jack as president.
Their three sons work in the company: Dave is shop foreman, Tim is assembly foreman, and Alan, along with Keith Conyers and Ben Sheehan, design equipment working closely with Jeff Goering.
The company’s manufacturing building looks as if it is spacious enough to cover a couple of acres along Coble Street, with an equally large outside yard area and a new painting room across the street on a recently acquired acre. It’s a big contrast to the blacksmith shop where Richmond started, which resembles a small farm shed in the photo he shows.
Stout said ideas for new products, the ability to commit the ideas to paper and then prototypes, keep the company moving forward. An automated line of bagging equipment for dog food or other feeds that the company will operate for one customer occupies one aisle of floor space beyond the rows of computerized lathes and other company equipment.
Beyond it in a corner is a sports-junkie’s dream, a computer controled basketball machine in a cage with a goal that changes positions and angles for a shooter practicing beyond the