VIII. 1999- Hope for the Future!
A. Howard Ice's Vision
With less than two months before the slated closing of Acklin Stamping, Howard Ice, Jr., a young businessman, and Lloyd Mahaffy, regional coordinator of the UAW, put together a plan to save Acklin Stamping. With the help of Donald Kuhl, a partner in the law firm of Eastman and Smith, Ltd; Mike Miller of Fifth-Third Bank, the First Energy Corporation; the city of Toledo's Economic Development team; the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority; and the Regional Growth Partnership, they were able to secure $2.9 million dollars. With this funding, they were able to purchase the 172,000 square foot factory and much of the essential machinery, thereby transferring the company back to private hands for the first time since 1952.
Howard Ice came to Toledo after graduating from Ohio University. He worked first as a cost accountant at a local stamping company before moving up through purchasing and production control positions to eventually become a plant manager. Ice described his management philosophy to a regional business magazine shortly after the purchase was finalized: "I grew up in a blue-collar family and learned no one is better than anyone else. It’s just that some people have different levels of responsibility. Everyone has thoughts and wishes to be heard. They all want to improve the business."
Acklin continues to stamp compressor housings for Tecumseh Products, but a sales department headed by Phil Carron is aggressively pursuing new business with measured success. Ice plans to diversify the products Acklin’s products, hoping to branch out into automotive and other sectors. In order to accomplish this, Ice has begun to introduce high standard technology and processes to Acklin.
Working with Lloyd Mahaffey and the UAW, Acklin under Ice has helped create a self-directed workforce. Utilizing the knowledge and desire for success within the employees, this system allows for maximum flexibility with minimum supervision. Ice said, "at first it was a shock to many employees. They would say 'I'm not sure what my boundaries are,' and we would tell them, 'you have no boundaries.'” Ice's goal is to have his employees feel important, to make them "enjoy coming to work."
There is a sense of cooperation and team play between management and the union that hadn't been present at Acklin for some time. Linda Straub, chair of Acklin's union committee, states, "They're trying to run a business and we're trying to help them run a business."
Within Acklin's employees there is a sense of creation, of new hope and new possibilities. "We feel like we're creating something and we are," Linda Straub said, continuing, "It’s not often that you get to be in on the ground floor of something."
Acklin's employment now fluctuates between 20 and 40 employees, but with growing business, Ice hopes to raise that number to 65 or higher within the next several years. Ms. Straub sums it up best when she says, "with Howard I see a future...and I think we're going to go far."
After 89 years, radical changes have washed over the metal working industry and Acklin has grown and changed along with them. Acklin's story and course through the last century is not unique, and the stories and events at Acklin could be retold at hundreds and thousands of plants like it throughout the region and the country. Acklin is starting anew, heading into a new era, and with dedication and cooperation they're ready for whatever comes their way.