Looking Back: Franklin Equipment is growing

Published 10:58 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

By Clyde Parker

March 13, 1969

Franklin Equipment Co., a major manufacturer of logging tractors, continues to grow through acquisition and market expansions.

The company is now working on development of a subsidiary corporation to be named “Franklin Equipment Company Canada, Ltd.” Manufacturing facilities have been 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, have prompted the company to establish a plant in Canada. It will be a complete facility for assembly of the “Franklin Logger,” close to where significant numbers of its customers, and potential customers, are located. Key personnel have been engaged. Production startup is planned to take place in 60 to 90 days. Most of the employees required to operate the Canadian facility, of course, will be Canadian; however, it is anticipated that some Franklin, Virginia, employees will go there, on a temporary basis, to help train those workers. In addition, some key Canadian production managers will come to Franklin, for short periods of time, for orientation and training. Company aircraft will be used to “shuttle” people back and forth between the two locations.

On a world-wide basis, overall, a significant increase in export business was made in 1968. The company now exports not only to Canadian destinations, but also through dealerships into destinations located in Europe, Africa, Central America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. Further export business is anticipated for 1969. Accordingly, the company’s export sales department is being reorganized and reenergized in an effort to more aggressively solicit overseas business.

On the domestic side of things, in February of 1968, Franklin Equipment Co. purchased the “Jeddeloh Brothers Sweed Mills, Inc.” foundry in Independence, Oregon, near Salem, and changed that corporation name to “Franklin Sweed Inc.” Adolph Jeddeloh, formerly president at Franklin Sweed, who emmigrated from Germany following World War II, is now a vice president of Franklin Equipment Co. but will continue to reside in Independence, Oregon.

For several years, Jeddeloh Brothers Sweed Mills, primarily a foundry, produced the winch drum, and various other casted housings for components, used on the “Franklin Logger.” In purchasing the foundry, Roger W. Drake, president of Franklin Equipment Co., said, “With the purchase of that operation, we can exercise 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.”

Roger W. Drake was president of Franklin Equipment Co.

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. These 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.

In 1968, Franklin Equipment Co. had a 35 percent increase in total sales and a 40 percent increase in dollar volume.

As of Jan. 1, 1969, 250 people were employed at its Franklin, Virginia, plant and approximately 50 people were employed in Oregon. And, as many as 50 people are expected to be employed at the Canadian facility. Unit sales for 1969 are expected to exceed 1,000 tractors from the Franklin plant.

As of Jan. 1, 1969, Franklin Equipment Co., was marketing its products through approximately 100 dealership locations in 25 states and eight foreign countries.

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 tractors which were tested and proven by Union Bag-Camp Paper Corp. woodland trials. 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 E. Second Ave., in downtown Franklin, operating there until 1966 when the company moved into a 280,000 square foot facility at Council and Carver Roads in Camptown.

Franklin Equipment Co. went out of business effective Jan. 1, 2009.