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Woodex Bearing workers adjusting to employee ownership

By: Frank Antosiewicz

March 30, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (March 30, 11:20 a.m. ET) — Since its inception, Woodex Bearing Co. Inc. (Booth 63012) has been evolving. Now the maker of Meco dry-running shaft seals is doing business as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan company.

“Becoming an ESOP was a long planned affair,” said Starkey Steuernagle, Woodex general manager, in a telephone interview.

He said Chairman Emeritus David Bowers and his wife Betty sold their majority stake in the company Jan. 1 to the employees as a way to ensure that it continues as a “Made in Maine” company.

”It hasn’t sunk in yet. Most of the experts say that it takes a few years for it sink in. It has increased our debt load, but we feel good that in the long run we will still manufacture the same product lines with a strong reputation for quality and customer support,” Steuernagle said.

He added, “We feel that we can only grow as people take stock in the company.”

Steuernagle noted that many employees have been with the company for 15 years and more. Vice President Steve Williams started as a teenager and has been there for over 30 years. President Glenn Irish has been with the company for 24 years.

Woodex currently employs 28 and operates in a 17,000 square foot facility in Georgetown, Maine, that combines conventional machine tools with state-of-the-art numerically controlled machines.

The company actually started in 1908 in Wakefield, Mass., as a trademark describing the Neveroil Bearing Co.’s oil-impregnated wood bearings. It was later named Wakefield Corp., then became Woodex Bearing after another change of ownership.

Woodex has served the plastics industry for many years by providing shaft seals for process machinery, mostly for extruders and dryers. They are also used in mixers and blenders.

“Most are used in primary resin manufacturing where resin is dried and extruded to pellet form. It also can be used where compounded with fillers and colorants,” Steuernagle said.

Woodex attended its first NPE in 2009 and this year is showcasing its newest model HB seal for screw conveyors