The abandoned Republic Rubber factory, located in Youngstown, Ohio, was a manufacturer of tires and hoses for the automotive and aerospace industries. At its peak, Republic employed 2,300 with a payroll of $4 million. The factory closed in 1989.
Republic Rubber was chartered on February 28, 1901, with a capital of $400,000. 4 Its officers included H.K. Wick as president, A.E. Adams as vice president, John Tod as secretary and treasurer, with A.E. Adams, W. Scott Bonnell, C.H. Booth, H.M. Robinson, George Tod, H.K. Wick and John C. Wick serving as directors. It located its factory, to produce pneumatic and solid automobile tires, rubber hoses and belts, on the site of the American Belting Company in 1902. The company continued to expand until it held capital of $10 million.
A new building to manufacture solid rubber tires was erected in 1907 followed by a storage building in 1908. 4 An office building was completed in 1910, and a clubhouse was added in 1913.
Republic invented the prodium process for tire manufacture in 1915 that made tires wear more even and smooth, leading to longer lasting tires. 3 Sales climbed and monthly exports of Republic tires began to be made to countries worldwide. On October 6, 1917, the Republic Rubber Corporation was formed with a capital of $10 million and contained the Youngstown plant and a Canton facility, which was purchased from the Knight Tire & Rubber Company. 4
The Lee Rubber & Tire Corporation acquired Republic Rubber on June 8, 1923, at a public auction for $3,523,410 and $2 million in receiver obligations, 1 forming the Republic Rubber Division of Lee Rubber & Tire. 6 Lee operated two facilities: the Republic Rubber Division, which manufactured mechanical rubber products in Youngstown, and its Lee of Conshohocken Division, which produced tires, tubes, and sundries in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Republic Rubber continued to progress, and the plant expanded with new equipment and structures, including a wire braid hose facility circa 1950. 9 During the 1960’s, the Youngstown facility was employing between 700 and 1,000 workers. 15
Lee Rubber & Tire was acquired by the Aeroquip Corporation in October 1963 5 6 15 and continued to operate under the Republic Rubber division. 2 In 1968, Aeroquip became a wholly owned subsidiary of Libbey-Owens-Ford Company, a manufacturer of glass products for automotive and construction industries. 7 The Salem Valve Company, which broke off from the Hunt Valve Company in 1962, acquired the hose manufacturing lines of the Aeroquip Republic Rubber division in Youngstown in 1972. 8 Salem was a start-up that with ten employees and a 4,100 square-foot operation that manufactured high-pressure air and hydraulic control valves in the steel and heavy equipment industries. After the merger, the renamed Salem-Republic Rubber Company continued to make hoses, valves, and other similar products.
In July 1978, Aeroquip’s Youngstown plant was closed due to rising energy and maintenance costs. Nearly 350 were left unemployed. 2 16 17
Four former officials of the Republic Rubber division announced in November that they would form a new company called the Republic Hose Manufacturing Corporation with the goal of obtaining a $1.5 million federal grant to purchase the 48-acre plant. 2 Aeroquip refused to sell only the 15 acres required for hose manufacturing. In response, the city of Youngstown bought the entire plant and resold just the 15 acres to the new enterprise. Numerous employees from Aeroquip were hired to manufacture rubber hose for off-road vehicles for tractors and mining equipment. 10
In a move that was noted nationally as a case of employee-buyouts saving companies, 80% of the 151 employees at Republic Hose voted for a buyout rather than allow Aeroquip relocate the plant to North Carolina to improve corporate profits. 10 The buyout required that workers be paid lower wages, that the profit-sharing plan is replaced with a pension plan, vacations to be nulled for one year, and paid holidays and unemployment benefits to be reduced. 13 After dipping to 50 employees in 1979, employment rebounded to 150 in 1984. 11 By December 1985, Republic Hose president C.C. Broadwater reported that the company needed “an infusion of $1 million for operating capital,” and that the company was “in dire need of capital to survive.” 12 After an infusion of capital, Republic Hose was able to continue production until its closure in 1989. 14
[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]
- “Republic Rubber Corp. Is Bought At Auction.” Independent [St. Petersburg] 8 June 1923, Evening ed.: 9. Print.
- “Republic Rubber Plant To Open As New Firm.” Blade [Toledo] 11 Nov. 1989: 19. Print.
- “Republic Tires Made By Special Process.” Pittsburgh Press 14 Apr. 1917: 3. Print.
- Butler, Joseph Green. “The Republic Rubber Company.” History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Ohio. Vol. 1. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1921. 730-31. Print.
- Data Center’s Plant Shutdowns Monitor 1984. Print.
- “Aeroquip Corporation History.” Funding Universe. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. Article.
- Smith, Leanne. “Peek through time: Aeroquip Corp.’s innovative idea is still going strong 70 years later.” Jackson Citizen Patriot 30 Mar. 2011: n. pag. MLive. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. Article.
- Shields, Larry. “Hose maker grew out of Salem plant.” Salem News 7 May 2013: n. pag. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. Article.
- “Lee Tire Sales Increase.” Miami News 13 Mar. 1957: 14A. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. Print.
- Taylor, Marsha. “New Tax Bill Encourages Employee Buyouts.” Observer-Reporter [Washington] 11 Jul. 1984: A-6. Print.
- Fowler, Elizabeth M. “Track records of employee-owned companies mixed.” Gainesville Sun 2 Sept. 1984: F-1. Print.
- “Employee-owned firm fights.” Bryan Times 10 Dec. 1985: 13. Print.
- Brom, Thomas. “Plant closings: How can the community survive?” Michigan Daily 13 Jan. 1980: 5. Print.
- “40 Years of Rubber.” Rubber News Aug. 2011: n.p. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. Article.
- “Lee Tire, Rubber Co. To Sell Plant in Ohio.” Reading Eagle 15 Oct. 1963: 21. Print.
- “Plant Will Be Closed, Aeroquip Force Told.” Toledo Blade 3 Mar. 1978: 21. Print.
- “Youngstown: for now, the horizon is gray.” Beaver County (Pa.) Times 11 May 1978: A-10. Print.