Jan 30, 2024

Northwest Indiana manufacturer marks centennial

A manufacturer headquartered in Monticello is celebrating 100 years in business this year. Fratco started in 1923 as a clay tile kiln and now manufactures corrugated drainage pipe, fittings and accessories as a fourth-generation, family-owned company.

“You can’t go 100 years and not have to adjust and adapt and improvise along the way,” said President and CEO Chris Overmyer. “We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What’s next?’ and I think that’s why we’ve been around so long.”

Overmyer talked about the company’s longevity in an interview with Inside INdiana Business. He said adaptability is key.

“Every day you wake up, and the world’s a little different, and the forces that cause that are bigger than you. You can’t really control, but you can adjust the azimuth of your ship to the new true north. And that’s what we tried to do,” he said. “We’ve built a good team that trust that what I see is really what’s going on, and we’ve made those small adjustments along the way to great success.”

Fratco’s corporate headquarters are located in Monticello, but its main operation is in nearby Francesville. The company also has three locations in Iowa and one in Illinois.

Overmyer said his team of about 215 employees has been critical to the company’s success, and he continues to “play the long game” when it comes to employment, particularly in the tough labor environment seen in all industries today.

“They’re family to us, and that’s a that’s a real thing. We have multigenerational employees, and I think that says a lot,” he said. “Weathering bad employment situation like this where it’s difficult to find employees, you know, it just takes time. And if we continue to sell ourselves as a family atmosphere, as a long-term, sustainable employer, I think those things take care of themselves over time.”

Despite the labor and supply chain challenges faced by many businesses, Fratco has seen steady revenue increases of 10% to 20% over the past few years.

Overmyer said he wants to ensure Fratco keeps going for another 100 years, and staying on the pulse of the industry will help achieve that goal.

“Have your ear to the rail, and study everyday, what is it the customer wants, and if you can provide the customer with good service, and with a product that he needs and wants at a fair price,” he said. “At the end of the day, you can make clay floor block or clay pipe or plastic pipe or something we haven’t even thought about yet, but we’re in the customer serving business. And as long as we do that, there’s going to be a need for Fratco.”

Story Continues Below