Since its inception, Woodex Bearing Co. Inc. 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 Woodex's 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 Woodex 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.
“We feel that we can only grow as people take stock in the company,” he added.
Many employees have been with the company for 15 years or more, he said. Vice President Steve Williams started at Woodex as a teenager and has been there more than 30 years. President Glenn Irish has been with the company 24 years.
At the recent NPE2012 in Orlando, the company showcased its newest HB series of seal for screw conveyors.
Most of the company's seals are used in primary resin manufacturing where resin is dried and extruded to pellet form. They also can be used where resin is compounded with fillers and colorants, Steuernagle said.
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.
The firm later was 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.