MEDINA — Visitors to the Chick Master Incubator Co. Friday morning who hoped to see tiny chicks running aimlessly throughout the facility were quickly disappointed upon seeing the sprawling operation.
The $50 million-a-year business operates sans chickens and their offspring, but is nothing short of impressive. Situated at 945 Lafayette Road in Medina, Chick Master employs about 70 people and supplies incubation and ventilation equipment for the poultry industry.
Its existence is proof that manufacturing is thriving in Medina County and the products made here are wide-ranging and innovative
“We sell products all around the world in every continent but Africa,” said Chick Master’s Marketing Manager Milcia Collado.
The visit was one of 19 plant and manufacturing facility tours that took place throughout the day as part of the Made in Medina County Day. Organized by the Medina County Economic Development Corp. to showcase the products and processors at work daily in the county, and an estimated 420 people took part in manufacturing visits throughout the day.
At 13 of the stops, elected officials visited and worked at stations within the manufacturing plants, walking away with a greater knowledge of the work taking place in the county.
Most of the incubation equipment at Chick Master is designed for chickens, but plant officials said the equipment is also used for turkeys, quail, ducks and an occasional ostrich.
“Everyone eats chicken,” Collado said. “Regardless of status or class, you can afford chicken. The entire industry is huge and only getting bigger.”
Chick Master Assistant Plant Manager David Haas said many developing nations are improving their eating habits and eating more chicken.
“We procure worldwide,” Haas said.
Chick Master’s plant is 86,000 square feet, but there is room to grow. Haas said the plant is running only one shift of workers and is in need of more employees.
On Friday, the company had orders waiting to be shipped to Mexico, Thailand, Peru and Ethiopia.
When incubators are shipped overseas, installers sometimes go with them to assemble the units.
The business originated in Cleveland in 1948 before relocating its headquarters in 1976 to its present factory in Medina, according to a company history.
Haas said if consumers see a Tyson Foods or Perdue chicken in grocery stores, or even a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget, those chickens probably were hatched in incubators made by Chick Master.
He said one incubation unit costs about $60,000.
Chick Master also supplies aftermarket parts, a $12 million-a-year business.
Haas said the company will continue to grow.
“We have the mojo and the leadership to keep this going,” he said.
Another successful business in Medina, Rico Manufacturing Inc., hosted Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, on Friday.
Rico, at 691 W. Liberty St., has been designing and manufacturing specialized lift trucks for industries around the globe — as well as the U.S. Army and Navy — for more than 30 years.
“Any time it’s made in America or made local, it’s always positive,” Renacci said. “The answer is how we get that accomplished more in this country. How do we get Made in Medina (County) more than just a slogan, but an opportunity for this to happen?
“You do that by allowing businesses to flourish, making sure we have the skill set from those coming out of high school and college to be able to stay here and have an environment where people want to live and raise a family here,” he said. “That’s the key. It’s nice to see a company like Rico grow and stay here in Medina. We need more of this.”
Renacci, a Republican, is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, in the Nov. 6 general election.
The former Wadsworth mayor said he loves making visits like Friday’s at Rico, which he said started from scratch and has been built into a successful business. Renacci said he was a businessman for almost 30 years in financial consulting, motorcycle and automobile dealerships, real estate and nursing homes.
Rico CEO Dave Mueller said he loves everything about Made in Medina County Day.
“It’s an opportunity to promote what we do,” he said.
Like many businesses, Rico is looking to add to its workforce.
“There is a skills-gap shortage, a lack of skilled people to fill jobs in the trades,” he said. “It’s tough finding workers.”
Mueller said not all kids coming out of high school are qualified for college.
He said some can go into manufacturing and “surpass their peers in earning potential” and not have $100,000 in student loan debt.
At a reception after the plant tours, the Economic Development Corp. announced that actor John Ratzenberger will serve as the keynote speaker for next year’s Manufacturing Expo, set for Oct. 4, 2019.
“John is not only an actor of ‘Cheers’ and Pixar fame, but he has become a true advocate for manufacturing and workforce training,” said Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp.
Ratzenberger, 71, played know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin on “Cheers” for the show’s entire 11-year run (1982-93). He won two Emmy nominations for his portrayal. He played voice roles in several Pixar Animation Studios’ films, including Hamm in “Toy Story.”
He has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion.
Kathy Breitenbucher, economic developer for the Economic Development Corp., put together the Made in Medina County event, along with Dentler.
“Made in Medina County Day was created to continue the dialog about manufacturing in Medina County,” Breitenbucher said. “Twenty-nine percent of our economic output and over $400 million in payroll is generated by the manufacturing industry in our county, and that’s very important because you can grow a manufacturing economy much further than a service-based one.
“Our manufacturers are very committed to keeping employees for the long term and training them,” Breitenbucher said. “The majority of the open positions in our county are entry-level. These are great jobs that pay good wages and offer amazing benefits. We hope people who were able to tour were able to see how products made here in their own county are used in their lives every day.”
The following businesses had elected officials at their plants:
- Fuserashi International Technology — Mike Kovack, county auditor;
- Plastipak — Bill Hutson, county commissioner;
- Blair Rubber Co, — Carol Carter, mayor of Seville;
- Knott Brake — Darrell Kick, Ohio state Senate;
- Rico Manufacturing —Jim Renacci, U.S. House of Representatives;
- Fire-Dex — Paul Rose, Medina City Council;
- Firstar — Nick Hanek, Brunswick City Council;
- Remington Products — Robin Laubaugh, mayor of Wadsworth;
- Root Candles — Dennis Hanwell, mayor of Medina;
- Sandridge Foods — Adam Friedrick, county commissioner;
- Stellar Automotive Group — Colleen Swedyk, county recorder;
- Clampco Products — Steve Hambley, Ohio House of Representatives;
- Columbia Chemical — Carl DeForest, Brunswick city manager;
For more information about the Economic Development Corp., visit medinacounty.org.