(Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
VAN WERT - It was a celebration of an Ohio success story - a family business that continues to grow and thrive. On Thursday, Braun Industries rolled out the 6,000th unit manufactured by the company in a mere 40 years. The company's employees had a chance to look back and celebrate the team's achievement as the shiny new ambulance sat beside them."We just asked the employees how far back they collectively remember the trucks, and I had three employees who remember all the way back to Truck 1,000, and a couple of employees who remember back to Truck 200!" reported President Kim Braun. "We have a wealth of knowledge in our people. The culture is a huge part of our selling point. We just came out of a sales meeting with all of our dealers across the nation, and they're all talking about 'Your employees sell your trucks every time we get our customer to come to the plant, they love your people. The people are happy with what they are doing, and it shows in their work.'"
Braun Industries began in Lithopolis, Ohio as a pattern shop in 1961, but in the early 1970s Braun turned to make handcrafted ambulances. The first unit, a van ambulance, was completed in 1972. The company moved to Oakwood four years later. The Van Wert plant first opened on Jan. 2, 2001. Less than a year later, Braun was faced with a rebuilding job after an F-4 tornado took the roof off the facility and brought down 80 percent of the walls. Even with the damage, Braun managed to complete and deliver vehicles within a week after the twister struck.
The company has continued to experience what Braun calls "sustainable growth."
She said, "This accomplishment is huge. It took us 27 years to build the first 3,000 and only 13 years to build the next 3,000. The pace is growing, our market share is growing, and that 's a big contribution to the people we have working here."
Braun Industries currently employees 150 workers at the 105,000 square foot plant in Vision Industrial Park. Ambulances built here are in service overseas and all across the United States. As for Truck 6,000, Braun says there are special plans for it.
"That is our own demo," she stated. "We will be taking that across the nation. It has some special features in it for new regulations that are hitting our industry that are tied in with the National Fire Prevention Association. It will be our showcase truck for the next year."