Friday, May 15, 2015

Take a virtual tour of Johnson Machine Works

I was running late yesterday afternoon, so (a) missed the supper served during a Business After Hours open house at Johnson Machine Works Plant No. 2 and (b) forgot to take the camera along. 

Fortunately, JMW has an excellent Web site, located here, and an informative Facebook page that you're invited to like as well. So if you've not taken an actual tour of JMW, by all means do so virtually.

For those who don't know --- and everyone related to Chariton really should --- JMW is Lucas County's oldest major employer, still owned and operated by the family that founded it 108 years ago. It specializes in fabricated steel and the really big stuff is handled at Plant No. 2, where we were yesterday.

Products include but aren't limited too massive structural steel components for commercial and public buildings, products and machinery for sewage treatment operations worldwide and the fabrication of locks, dams and gates for power plants and waterways, also worldwide. 

On a somewhat smaller scale, JMW also designed and fabricated the big flower pots on the four corners of the big downtown parking area around the Lucas County Courthouse --- and will be producing more of these as work continues to brighten up the Main Street District. The soaring, sculptural exterior stairs added to the north facade of the restored Hotel Charitone also is a JMW product.

I did arrive in time for the informative tour of the big plant led by Steve Bright, production manager, and came away knowing a lot more about this amazing place we drive by all the time, but probably don't think about that often. You'll see Steve and other JMW personnel if you watch the brief video on the JMW Web site cover page.

Business After Hours is a project of Chariton Area Chamber-Main Street that involves regular open houses, intended for both Chamber-Main Street investors and the general public, at commercial operations around town --- and the county. These are publicized before they occur and all are welcome, so keep your eyes open and plan to attend (there's generally food, too).


It was interesting, too, to preview the presentation that Pam and Dick Magnuson, who operate Chariton's Harbor House Christian Store, are preparing for "Open 4 Business" competition. Open 4 Business is a  program of the Iowa Economic Development Authority that offers the possibility of grant funding on both regional and state levels for innovative projects developed by business owners working to expand, redevelop or retool.

The Magnusons would like to expand their operation, currently located on the south side of the square, and also retool amd refine their Christian-oriented product line and marketing strategy in response to direct competitors like, that great online emporium where many who formerly bought locally now shop. Purveyors of real books --- ink on paper --- like the Magnusons also face competition from digital devices that allow readers to download rather than carry away.


Finally, we sat around for a while and worked on developing streamlined mission and vision statements for Chamber-Main Street, now preparing to enter its fourth year and saddled since the beginning with lengthy and somewhat clumsy conglomerations of words that no one could possibly remember. We seemed to be making progress --- maybe by the time my three-year term on that board expires next month I'll be able to recite the mission statement as easily as we do the pledge.

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