by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC
As I continue to tour manufacturing facilities in the region, last month I stepped back in time with a visit to the new Sippy Historic Machine Shop in Saegertown, PA. Crawford County has a rich history of manufacturing, so when I received an invitation to attend the open house, I couldn’t wait and was like a kid going to an amusement park for the first time.
For some background, this cool attraction was created this year to preserve a historic belt driven machine shop. The space is set-up as a replica of the shop that Frank Davenport founded in Meadville and operated from 1915 – 1962 and Frank Foriska owned and operated until 1995. In 2020, Foriska’s son Albert made the difficult decision to put the contents of his family’s vintage machine shop up for auction. Lon Sippy, CEO, Owner/Operator of Highpoint Tool and Machine in Saegertown, stepped forward to move and preserve the equipment into a building he built for this specific purpose. The NWPA Chapter of NTMA purchased equipment, along with other artifacts, and gifted to the Greater Meadville Tooling Center who has established a Board to support this project. In less than a year’s time, Lon coordinated moving the equipment and has spent countless hours making operational in its new home. He not only preserved the equipment, but also every detail from the flooring to the office, work benches, interior and exterior of the building. Lon said the acquisition came with all the paperwork, desks, drawing boards, and thousands of pages of drawings. By reading the dates when letters were sent and received, he started putting history together. His mission was to track the roots of how the various shops in the area got started.
I was enamored with this space and wanted NWIRC’s Board of Directors to see it too, most of whom are leaders at manufacturing companies in the region. We hosted our quarterly board meeting there several weeks after my open house visit. Our traditional board meeting culminated with a tour from Lon.
I observed, as will future visitors, that obviously many things have changed in manufacturing over the years but fundamentals remain the same. It was apparent that workplace organization and efficiency (5S) was a staple to manufacturing success back then, or maybe they were just ahead of their time. It was exciting to see first-hand how far manufacturing has come…but it’s even more exciting to think that the future is now with all the new technology and innovations available for manufacturers at their fingertips today.
Lon and Tami Adams, Executive Director of NWPA NTMA, both speak of the importance for students to see the latest technology at area manufacturing companies to encourage them to consider various career opportunities. But, thanks to the commitment of Lon and others, the history of manufacturing in Crawford County is being preserved for the years ahead and students can step back in time, just for a moment, to see how far we’ve come.