News

Lakeshore Chamber shines light on longstanding businesses

November 06, 2014
Joseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316

Drive through Sun Belt cities, and storefronts will say a business was established a decade or two ago, as though it's an impressive feat.

In Northwest Indiana, particularly in northern Lake County, deep-rooted companies have often been around for a century or more. If family-owned, they have made it to at least the third generation, an increasingly rare feet in a era where fewer people go into business for themselves in the first place.

The Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce of Hammond and East Chicago highlighted local companies that have stood the test of time such as the 106-year-old Meade Electric at its monthly general membership luncheon Wednesday. The scheduled speaker, ArcelorMittal USA non-executive board chairman Mike Rippey, cancelled because he had a seriously ill family member in the hospital.

Instead, owners of longstanding businesses were invited to share their stories and talk about what made them so successful over time.

"It takes hard work," Lakeshore Executive Director Dave Ryan said. "Nobody's going to give it to you. You've got to work hard. You've got to train your people. You have to take some chances."

The third-generation Calumet Breweries, which is a wholesaler and not actually a brewer, has distributed beer across Northwest Indiana for 81 years, ever since it landed a permit at the end of Prohibition. The Hammond-based distributor dispatches a dozen trucks throughout the region every day to distribute Budweiser and other beer brands.

Many beer wholesalers started out as family-owned and would now be in the third or fourth generation, President John Kiernan said. But, statistically, most family-owned businesses never make it past the second generation, so many companies in the sector have been sold or been forced to sell.

"There are a lot of considerations in a family business," Kiernan said. "The expectations are certainly high, and certainly should be, with the legacy there. Individuals coming into the business are expected to add value."

Few people know about Screw Conveyor Corp. in Hammond, but it's been in business for 82 years. The family-owned company has grown into a leading manufacturer of bulk material handling equipment. Screw Conveyor maintains its corporate headquarters at its original location in Hammond but has since opened factories in Mississippi and California.

"I think the reason we made it is that my grandfather installed a work ethic in my dad that he installed in me," owner Gary Abraham said. "You've got to put more hours in. You can't simply sit back. You can't act like you were born into the right baby carriage and just let it continue on because it doesn't work that way."


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