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Judd Wire celebrates 60 years

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Ken Sears of Judd Wire Inc. inspects the companies new multi wire drawing machine that can make wire longer and thinner several strands at a time.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Ken Sears of Judd Wire Inc. inspects the companies new multi wire drawing machine that can make wire longer and thinner several strands at a time.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Judd Wire in Turners Falls

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Judd Wire in Turners Falls

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Wire strands are spun together on machinery at Judd Wire in Turners Falls.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Wire strands are spun together on machinery at Judd Wire in Turners Falls.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Ken Sears of Judd Wire Inc. inspects the companies new multi wire drawing machine that can make wire longer and thinner several strands at a time.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Judd Wire in Turners Falls
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Wire strands are spun together on machinery at Judd Wire in Turners Falls.

TURNERS FALLS — Judd Wire celebrated 60 years in business Thursday, years that have seen the company grow from two employees turning out wire for vacuum cleaner hoses to about 500 employees in two plants on either coast reeling out thousands of pounds of wire a day for airplanes, cars and consumer electronics.

“If you fly in Boeing airplanes not only in the US but all over the world you fly with us, and if you drive a car made by GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, such and such, you drive with us, and also if you enjoy music on your Bose speaker you are listening with us,” said former company president and current Executive Advisor Hidetoshi “Toshi” Kinuta. “We are very proud of these things.”

The anniversary celebration also marked 25 years under the ownership of Sumitomo Electric Industries of Japan.

Kinuta was a member of the Sumitomo acquisition team in 1988 and has been with Judd since, for the past 13 years as president.

“In 25 years Judd has had good times and also bad times and we have experienced three major recessions, and without the support of our good employees and our good community Judd would not have successfully overcome them,” Kinuta said.

State Rep. Stephen Kulik, State Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Mark Fairbrother, chairman of the Montague Board of Selectmen, were among those who turned out for the anniversary lunch in front of the Turnpike Road factory.

“Judd Wire has always been one of Montague’s most important businesses, providing good paying jobs, generating significant tax revenues for the town, and equally important, making major contributions to the development of our community,” Fairbrother said, wishing the company continued success.

Fairbrother said that Judd’s 270 employees make it the largest employer in town, wages are among the highest in the region at an average of $16 an hour, Judd is the third largest taxpayer at nearly a quarter of a million dollars annually and recently became a partner in the town booster program Turners Falls RiverCulture.

Both Rosenberg and Kulik presented company president Hiroyuki “Hiro” Watanabe, appointed as Kinuta’s successor in April, with citations from their respective houses of the Legislature and thanked the company for keeping jobs in the community after the acquisition and continuing to grow in place.

“How long have we been hearing that manufacturing is going elsewhere, around the world, to the cheapest, lowest- cost place one can find? And to look out here to see this plant, to see all of you that work here to make a product that you can be proud of and stand behind really shows that that doesn’t have to be true,” Rosenberg said.

Industry history

Thomas Judd opened the original 1,000-square-foot Turners Falls factory, building the business and the factory until 1967, when he sold the company to Electronized Chemical Corp. That corporation opened a second plant carrying the Judd name in California, eventually selling to Sumitomo.

The 250,000-plus square foot plant that now sits on Turnpike Road runs 24 hours a day, five days a week, manufacturing and processing wire.

Shift manager Jim Zellmann of Greenfield said a recent expansion in one department, the purchase of an army of new machines, has allowed the company to flip its former ratio of 65-percent purchased and 35-percent self-produced wire.

The interior of the plant resembles a high-tech version of the textile mills found in history textbooks, with threads of wire spooling overhead and in all directions through hulking looms.

In one area, bobbins run wire through a series of increasingly narrow apertures to reach gauges measured in thousandths of an inch. Other machines twist the copper filaments into cable, others melt a plastic coating onto the wire and in another zone the coated wire is bombarded with electrons.

The purpose of irradiating the wire is to flame-proof the plastic coating, Zellmann explained; a plane full of burning wire would be undesirable.

The wire moves through the machines at a slow pace in most zones, and Zellman said one worker tends an average of 25 to 30 machines at once.

Future

Fairbrother pointed to the plant as evidence that the industrial economy is not dead. Manufacturing accounts for half of Montague’s employment base and Judd accounts for nearly a quarter of those jobs, he said, and the town has already marked a place in the planned Turnpike Road Industrial Park for Judd expansion.

Earlier this week, Kinuta said the company has the potential and the energy to expand its business and plans to do so, but the plan is not yet clearly designed.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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