The Hoover Co. may have left several years ago, but the Timken Co. says despite the lure of lower labor costs elsewhere, it has no intentions of going anywhere.
The Ansell Perry plant. The Hoover Co. LeBron James.
Ohioans are accustomed to the occasional departure of a longtime established institution from their community.
But so far, the Timken Co. has not joined them.
In recent years, despite the lure of lower labor costs in other states and overseas, Timken executives have not publicly expressed any inclination to move the company out of the area.
The worldwide company has had its headquarters in Canton for 110 years since it moved here from St. Louis to be closer to the automotive industry.
Today, in the local area it has its headquarters on Dueber Avenue SW, three plants, its Bearings and Power Transmission offices on Cherry Avenue SE and its Technology Center in Jackson Township.
“The corporate headquarters is here because the corporate headquarters is here,” said James Griffith, president and CEO of Timken. “We’re an Ohio company. The Timken family brought the company here in 1901. We’ve been here. We’ve chosen to be here. We’ve built a big reservoir of intellectual capital here. The state of Ohio has created a good environment for companies to have their headquarters to be incorporated here.”
While Timken has factories in Europe and Asia, it hasn’t outsourced its Canton operations overseas because local labor costs, which can average $23 an hour, are still a small percentage of the cost of making a ton of steel, Griffith said.
He said the Canton plants are close to Timken’s North American industrial customers. They’re close to scrap metal supply chains, which provide steel to the plants, and the costs for the electricity that fuels the plants is low.
The area has a pool of people, many with Associate’s degrees who have the high-end engineering or manufacturing skills Timken desires. And the area has universities and colleges to train those people.
“Again, this is an intellectual property game,” Griffith said. “And to be close to the University of Akron. To be close to Case Western (Reserve University). To have the fastest growing community college in the nation (Stark State) in our backyard are critical pieces because we have to be able to attract the best minds in the world to come here.”
Around 1981, Timken said it planned to build a more automated rolling steel plant possibly in Kentucky or Tennessee. The announcement sparked fears by union officials and county officials that Timken eventually would relocate all its operations out of state.
United Steelworkers Local 1123, which represents Timken hourly workers, agreed to a no-strike clause and pay concessions for the new plant, to persuade the Timken Co. to build that plant in Stark County.
“Without that plant being built here, there’s a good chance the company would have left the community,” former Local 1123 president Ed Sexton told The Repository in 1985. “That wouldn’t have just hurt the membership, it would’ve hurt everyone in the community.”
Page 2 of 2 - To ensure Timken stayed, Stark County commissioners borrowed $9.8 million, despite lacking a sales tax to repay the funds, to fund drainage and road improvements in Perry Township. Those improvements supported what would become the Faircrest Plant, which opened in 1985.
“We were going to do what we had to do to make it happen,” Richard Watkins, a Stark County commissioner in the 1980s, said in a 2003 interview.