As one travels on the Main Street extension through the Commerce Industrial Park, in most cases, the function of the residing businesses is evident by the descriptions in their names: Robertson’s Kitchen and Bath, Trilogy Plastics, MAC Trailer, Columbia Gas, for example.
The one exception is Winkle Industries. This building has a clean, inviting and well-manicured look from the curb which provides a preview of what’s inside. But the attractive curb appeal is only a glimpse of the hustle and bustle that makes Winkle one of the most successful businesses in the area.
The company is immersed in local roots, having Alliance native and Alliance High School graduate Joe Schatz as owner and CEO. His wife Christina is also an Alliance native and a Marlington High School graduate who went on to earn a business degree from Bowling Green and is now an accomplished CPA in Stark County.
The story of how Winkle got here is a perfect example of appreciation for the community from which one is born and raised.
In the spring of Schatz’s senior year at Kent State, he was offered and accepted a position as a regional sales manager with the Canfield based company. After 10 years of employment, a series of circumstances led to Schatz putting together a deal to purchase the business from the Winkle family.
Under his leadership and with the support of dedicated employees, the business expanded well beyond the confines of the facility in which it was housed. After exploring several relocation options, Schatz decided to bring the company to his hometown of Alliance in 2002, constructing one of the first facilities in the then-new Commerce Industrial Park.
“When I was contemplating the move from Canfield, we received several offers from various business development teams throughout western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio,” Schatz said. “Most of the opportunities presented themselves as very favorable, but I was drawn to my hometown and thought of it as an opportunity to give back to the community in which I was born and raised.”
What was largely a one-dimensional company when Schatz took it over, has now become extremely diversified.
“Most people in the community describe Winkle as a business where lifting magnets are engineered, manufactured and repaired,” Schatz said. That description only scratches the surface of what goes on in the state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility with more than 100 employees.
Today, Winkle operates across six specialized business segments: engineered products, manufacturing services, remanufacturing services, parts distribution, engineering services and field service.
“We provide safe and reliable engineered material handling solutions for a wide variety of industrial and mill-duty applications,” Schatz said. “Our product expertise extends beyond lifting magnets to include mechanical lifting devices, crane components, transfer equipment, power supplies and electrical controls. Combined with a full line-up of parts distribution and field service capabilities, customers worldwide rely on Winkle to obtain end-to-end support for their mission-critical material handling processes.”
In addition, Schatz also owns two other businesses located in Alliance. The first is LiftTech Industrial Services which employs a talented independent network of on-call engineers, inspectors and technicians who provide accredited field service support. The second is ProEn which employs multidisciplinary engineers who provide design, analysis and consulting services for a wide range of mechanical, structural and electrical projects.
Although these businesses operate independently with their own customer bases, one or both companies work in conjunction with Winkle from time to time on various projects.
Schatz is extremely proud of his hometown and to be in a position to give back. He knows that focused giving, education outreach, civic leadership and creating jobs are keys to growth and sustainability in our community. This is precisely why Schatz continually donates time, talent and resources in Alliance.
“There are a lot of communities that claim to be tight-knit, but we have something special here in Alliance,” Schatz said. “There is mutual respect and commonality among business owners where we are all extremely passionate and active in making our community a better place to work and live.”