A Side Gig Becomes More

Residents view the destruction of the 1924 tornado on Market Street, Sandusky

Picture it, 1901, a newspaper man has a side gig running a small foundry. Now, 117 years and four generations later, that small foundry, Mack Iron Works is an international specialist in metal fabrication and a pillar of the Sandusky community, employing 35 individuals.

John D. Mack founded Mack Iron Works in 1901 while running the Sandusky Register with his father John T. Mack and brother Egbert. He continued to maintain the small operation until 1924 when a pivotal moment for all of Sandusky struck – the tornado of 1924. On June 28, 1924 a tornado swept through Sandusky destroying many homes and businesses and completely demolishing Mack Iron Works. Many businesses were faced with the tough decision of closing for good or rebuilding.

Mr. Mack knew he could not run the Register while rebuilding Mack Iron and his heart was with the press.. At the same time, John Mack’s daughter was living in California, married to an attorney and trust officer. Being the entrepreneur he was, Mr. Mack came up with an innovative solution. He reasoned that his son-in-law knew enough about business and law to run a company, and if his son-in-law moved to back to Ohio from California, then so would his daughter and grandkids. And so began the involvement of the Bacon family in the company.

Committing to the Place

Before producing materials for the war and later strainers, Mack completed many local projects such as fences, benches, staircases, hitching posts and more – their stamp is seen here on the entrance gate to the original Cedar Point Road at Sheldon’s Marsh

Lucas Bacon navigated Mack Iron through some true tests of strength – not only recovering from the total destruction of the tornado, but also through the Great Depression, and into new challenges and opportunities brought on by WWII.  During the Great Depression Mack Iron was able to remain in operations by scaling back to one and “a half” employees. Lucas and his Plant Manager traded weeks being the “half” employee. This was their commitment to continue to contribute to Sandusky and Erie County’s economy.

Around the time of WWII changes in the market set a course for Mack Iron’s future. Like most manufacturers of the time, Mack was making war materials and workflow was strong. With much of the traditional laborforce deployed, there were of course workforce challenges, but Mack Iron had a creative solution. Each day German and Italian Prisoners of War were bused into Sandusky from Camp Perry to work in the industry. This was a temporary solution, and today Mack Iron continues to address its workforce needs strategically but with a more long-term focus through its relations with the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association..

A comical representation of “Mr. Mack” with one of the strainers Mack produces.

Taking Chances

In addition to contributing as the country demanded during WWII, Mack Iron Works was making pivotal decisions that would set the course for the company’s growth into modern times. As Lucas Bacon was managing this hectic time for the company, opportunity came knocking, and he answered. The Erie Ordinance Facility (NASA Plumbrook today) approached Mack Iron seeking a geometric strainer for one of its pipes. Mack Iron had never made this before, but Lucas accepted the job anyways. It was the firt time of many that they would make this product.

Progress Made by People

Soon after adding this new product line, Lucas’s son John L. Bacon joined the company, and Mack Iron as we know it today continued to grow. Today Mack fabricates a variety of industrial strainers, housings, and accessories as well as miscellaneous specialty metal fabrication. Beyond fabrication, Mack hosts engineering and quality control in-house. Today’s employees firmly believe their success is owed to the people that came before them.

Mack Iron owes their success to the people that come before them, like those pictured here

The current President, John O. Bacon, grandson of Lucas, and son of John L. operates by Mack Iron’s motto, “Quality people doing quality work”. Of Mack’s 35 employees, the average years of service per employee is 20.  Just as the employees of the 117-year-old factory have committed to the business, the business is committed to them.  As John says, “We have pledged to our employees that Mack Iron is going to be here for a good long time, so they can plan their career and their success around Mack Iron’s success.” Though the average years of service may be astounding, what’s more impressive is the diversity within Mack’s workforce. They pride themselves on having the best of every working generation. Two of the company’s employees have already begun logging their years of service for Mack, even though they just graduated high school this spring – including the first female welder in company history.  John also says, “Prospective employers have to show as much interest in youth as youth do in careers.” As we enter what some consider the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this philosophy will set Mack Iron Works apart, and set them up for centuries of continued success.