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Unread 10-28-2009, 02:28 PM
garry1's Avatar
garry1 garry1 is offline
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Default Hoffco/Comet closes doors, putting dozens out of work

Hoffco/Comet closes doors, putting dozens out of work
A manufacturing mainstay in Richmond has closed after 60 years of operations.

Hoffco/Comet CEO John Bratt confirmed Tuesday that the company has closed.

?A year ago, we were profitable and running well,? he said in the empty lobby of the once-booming plant at 358 North West F St.

The business took a devastating hit last October in the midst of the economic downturn.

?Our backlog dropped off 40 percent in a week,? Bratt said. ?It had always come back in two to three weeks, but it never has. It?s difficult to lose 40 percent of your business and still survive.?

Hoffco produced lawn and graden equipment, such as tillers, while the Comet brand produced clutches, torque converters and other items for industrial and commercial applications.

Hoffco/Comet had 135 employees about 18 months ago, Bratt said. That total was down by about two-thirds when the closing announcement was made at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

Just a half-dozen cars were parked in front of the building around noon Tuesday.
Terri Shouse, a supervisor scheduler, left after finishing some final tasks.

?It?s very emotional today,? said the 14-year employee. ?It?s very hard.?

Bratt said it was difficult to inform employees about the decision. One was celebrating 29 years at Hoffco/Comet. Another had 45 years of experience.

Bratt said the company ? which is owned by Tenax Corp. of Indianapolis ? has not filed for bankruptcy.

He said four or five people will continue cleaning up and gathering records.

?There are a lot of things we had to do yet,? he said.

Hoffco/Comet sold its building in 2004 and has leased it back ever since.
The closing is an unfortunate sign of tough times, said Richmond mayor Sally Hutton.

?That hurts. We?ve already lost so many,? she said.
She said the city and the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County are always are available to talk about ways to retain businesses.
?We don?t want anyone else losing jobs,? Hutton said.
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Unread 10-28-2009, 02:45 PM
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grouch grouch is offline
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Seems us OPE people aren't the only one's operating on the edge. Sad.
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Unread 10-28-2009, 05:15 PM
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Brothers David Hoff and Stephen Hoff founded Hoffco in 1949, but the company had its roots in a century-old business owned by their father.

In 1865, Ben Starr and Ezra Nye organized a sheet metal business at 185 Fort Wayne Ave., where they made cups, candle molds, fruit cans and other items. The business passed to W.W. Alexander in 1883, which made cornices, ornamental bay windows and metal fronts. The company then was sold to John Schultz and Isaac Lanning.

Harry J. Hoff began working at the firm in the 1920s and owned it wholly by 1935, when he moved Hoff Sheet Metal Inc. to 411 N. Eighth St. The company did metal fabrication and sold and maintained furnaces and air conditioners. Among its notable creations was a huge cross for St. John Lutheran Church.

In the 1940s, David Hoff and Stephen Hoff had the task of trimming grass and brush from the banks of "Stony Gulch" on the family property along Elkhorn Creek. Steve Hoff sought an easier way to handle the task and had the idea to combine a scythe with an outboard motor engine.

Working through their father's company, the Hoff brothers introduced the portable power Scythette in 1949.

The brothers and their father founded Hoffco to handle the power tool business, first operating at 25 Washington Ave. From the Scythette, they developed attachments such as a brush saw, chain saw, rotary tiller, rotary trimmer and sickle bar cutter. The company also developed a chain saw, which it manufactured until the 1970s.

Here's how the company developed:

  • 1955 -- Hoffco's power tools were used around the world, including at the White House.

  • 1958 -- Hoffco was the second-largest manufacturer of go-karts in the United States, and in 1960, the company began sponsoring a go-kart racing team in England and Italy.

  • 1962 -- The company employed 100 people and the Comet division was making clutches, brakes, axels and wheel assemblies.

  • 1964 -- The Hoffs began patenting blade brake clutches for lawnmowers, long before the 1981 federal mandate requiring the safety feature on all lawnmowers.

  • 1968 -- A long strike at Hoff Sheet Metal led the company to liquidate, but Harry Hoff remained an officer of Hoffco.

  • 1972 -- Texan George Ballas came to the Hoffs seeking assistance with his invention, a monofilament trimmer, better known as the WeedEater. Hoffco designed and built all the power WeedEaters from 1972 to 1978, when the brand was sold to Emerson Electric.

  • 1978 -- Harry Hoff died.

  • 1980s -- Hoffco was operating at 358 N.W. F St., where it built a new addition for its Comet Industries division. The company was manufacturing more than 200 products and held more than 100 patents.

  • 1989 -- Stephen Hoff died.

  • 1990s -- Hoffco and Comet Industries employed about 200 people and was among Wayne County's top 25 employers. It had in excess of $17 million in annual sales in 1990.

  • 1993 -- The Tenax Corporation of Indianapolis bought Hoffco/Comet Industries.

  • 1996 -- David Hoff retired from Hoffco. He died in 2007.

  • 1999 -- The company had 1,000 customers in 40 countries. Production expanded to include building cabs for construction and agricultural equipment and mini-bulldozers used in the forestry industry. The company also made parts and products for John Deere, Murray Corp., Homelite and Snapper.

  • 2003 -- A $2.06 million, 10-year abatement was approved by the Richmond Common Council for new equipment at Hoffco for a new product line, a patented rubberized manhole cover that was tested in Richmond.

  • 2009 -- Tenax owner John Bratt announced the closing of the 60-year-old Hoffco.
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    Unread 10-28-2009, 09:11 PM
    GWB2006 GWB2006 is offline
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    I'm sure this will prove a troublesome item in the future of getting these parts for various go carts and other equipment using them. Surely the cogged belts are going to be hard to come by with the slanted edge.

    Anybody have a heads up on what other companies manufacture something that will interchange with the Comet Industries stuff?

    Also, I am sure this is another casualty of the cheaper Chinese import crap. When will America's leaders learn?
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    Unread 10-28-2009, 11:01 PM
    diagnostech diagnostech is offline
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    I'm with you gwb.

    honda mini tillers, gear boxes were made by them also.

    this chinese import stuff is fast killing so many solid old companies. so sad.

    The rise and fall of industrial america, all in 100 years , the 1900's.??
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    Unread 10-29-2009, 09:23 AM
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    grouch grouch is offline
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    Thanks, garry1, that was an interesting read.
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    Unread 04-26-2010, 06:00 PM
    heidy_james heidy_james is offline
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    This is an informative post, These types of writing always magnetize me.

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    Last edited by heidy_james : 04-01-2011 at 07:26 AM.
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