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Looking back: March 29, 1971

FRANKLIN EQUIPMENT CO. CONTINUES TO GROW

Franklin Equipment Co., a major manufacturer of logging tractors, based in Franklin, continues to grow through acquisitions and market expansions. Personnel and Community Relations Manager Clyde Parker recently commented on the status of the company. “The year 1971 promises to be a very good year for the company. The company has grown and developed to such an extent that, now, it offers a much broader range of logging tractors, competing very favorably with its competition:  John Deere, Caterpillar, and International Harvester.”

Richard E. Owens, executive vice president, recently reflected on the expansion of the company’s export market. “On a worldwide basis, overall, a significant increase in export business opportunity has occurred during the last few years. Further export business is anticipated for 1971-1972. Accordingly, the Company’s export sales department is being reorganized and re-energized in an effort to more aggressively compete for and solicit overseas business.”

Owens continued. “In addition to producing logging tractors for the overseas timber harvesting industry, Franklin Equipment Co. is now into manufacturing tractors for harvesting sugar cane in Puerto Rico, for agricultural farming in Denmark, and for tree harvesting – in various kinds of terrain – all over the world. Indonesia, right now, is our largest overseas tree harvesting tractor market. Japan runs a close second.” Owens indicated that Franklin Equipment Co. has even had inquiries about its products from “Iron Curtain” countries such as Russia and Yugoslavia.

It should be noted, though, for some time now, the company has been exporting logging tractors into various Canadian locations and, through “Franklin” dealerships, into destinations located in Europe, Africa, Central America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea.

In response to the Company’s rapidly developing Canadian business, a subsidiary corporation named “Franklin Equipment Company Canada, Ltd. was established there in 1969. Manufacturing facilities were acquired in Elmira, Ontario, Canada. Increased Franklin Equipment Co. sales in Canadian territory contingent to the United States and projections for significant potential business in a much broader Canadian market territory, prompted the company to establish the plant in Canada. It is a complete facility for assembly of the “Franklin Logger,” close to where significant numbers of its customers, and potential customers, are located. Most of the employees required to operate the Canadian facility, of course, are Canadian; however, some Franklin, Virginia employees go there from time to time, on a temporary basis, to help train those workers. In addition, some key Canadian production managers come to Franklin, for short periods of time, for orientation and training. Company aircraft is used to “shuttle” people back and forth between the two locations.

On the domestic side of things, the company’s foundry in Independence, Oregon is in capacity operation. In February 1968, Franklin Equipment Co. purchased the foundry, formerly called “Jeddeloh Brothers Sweed Mills, Inc.” and changed its name to “Franklin Sweed Division, Franklin Equipment Co..” Adolph Jeddeloh, former president at Jeddeloh, who immigrated from Germany following World War II, is now a vice president of Franklin Equipment Co. but continues to reside in Independence, Oregon.

Prior to the Franklin Equipment Co. acquisition of the foundry, Jeddeloh had been producing the winch drum, and various other casted housings for components used on the “Franklin Logger.” President Roger W. Drake, commenting on the purchase of the Oregon facility, said “we are exercising much more control over the acquisition of a good part of the materials required to put a complete logging tractor out the door, and to the customer.” Drake added, “the foundry, in addition to pouring ductile iron castings for winches, has complete machining facilities which enables us to manufacture the total winch as well as other complete components such as transmission/transfer cases, axles, etc.

Drake continued. “Ductile castings produced in Oregon are transported to Franklin by our own line of trucks; then, on the next trip out, our trucks will deliver scrap metal for recycling. Those same trucks will pick up and deliver other materials, such as tires and engines, along the way.”

The Oregon facility, in addition to operating as a foundry, is now manufacturing the “Franklin Logger” for the West Coast market.

As of Jan. 1, 1971, 250 people were employed at the Franklin, Virginia plant and approximately 50 people were employed in Oregon. Eventually, 50-75 people will be working at the Canadian facility.

Franklin Equipment Co., as of Jan. 1, 1971, was marketing its products through approximately 100 dealership locations in 25 states and numerous foreign countries. The “Franklin” logo can be seen on equipment and signages in many places across the country and around the world.

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NOTE: Franklin Equipment Co. was officially founded on July 16, 1962, in Franklin, Virginia by Roger W. Drake, a native of Boykins and a World War II veteran. That founding was preceded by four years of prototype tractor-testing and trials by Union Bag-Camp Paper Corp. The first manufacturing facility was in a hangar at Franklin Municipal Airport. When that facility proved to be inadequate space-wise, the company relocated to a facility at 217 East Second Avenue in downtown Franklin, operating there until 1966 when the Company moved into a 280,000 square foot facility at Councill and Carver Roads in Camptown.

In later years, Franklin Equipment Co. went through a few other expansions. In 1976, it acquired Dana Corporation’s Gear and Axle Division, in Detroit, and relocated it to Franklin; and, in 1991, the “Tree Farmer” equipment company, a competitor, based in Talladega, Alabama, was purchased and its product line was transferred to an assembly line at the Franklin, Virginia plant. Both acquisitions, contributed significantly to the region’s industrial development.

Effective Jan. 1, 2009, Franklin Equipment Company went out of business.