MANSFIELD — Michael Byrne kept one thought in mind when growing the manufacturing business he started in his Mansfield garage in 1966.

What will the customer want next from his company, which primarily manufactures auger-boring machines used in underground tunneling?

Byrne, who founded Michael Byrne Manufacturing, died two months ago at age 99, not long after he was inducted into the North Central Ohio Industrial Museum’s “Champions of Industry.”

But the family-owned business that still bears his name has kept his thought in mind, now guided by his son-in-law, Jim Weist, and his grandaughter, Leslie Weist.

The father and daughter met with Richland County commissioners on Tuesday and received unanimous approval for an enterprise zone agreement that will lead to the construction of a 10,000-square foot new building on the company’s site near Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport.

The $1.5 million investment at 1855 Earth Boring Road, just south of Cairns Road, assisted by a 10-year, 60-percent tax abatement on the increased value, will also result in seven additional jobs over the next three years.

The company has 24 employees at its facility located in Madison Township. The new positions will be likely be in management, machinists and welders.

Leslie Weist, the company’s vice president of operations, said the company has one large manufacturing building on its site.

“We’re looking to build the second one so that we can move all of our CNC machining operations into that new building. It will allow us to upgrade some of our CNC machines and it will give us more space for our welding and fabrication and machine assembly in our existing building,” she said.

Jim Weist, president and CEO of the family business, said the COVID-19 impact on supply-chain issues helped to drive the expansion decision.

“It became more evident through the COVID ordeal and the supply chains that we’re dealing with and the issues with them that the more we can do in-house, the better off we are going to be positioned within our market to meet our customers’ needs,” he said.

Byrne 2

Machines manufactured by Bryne are often sought for use by companies installing any variety of underground utility lines — water, sewer, gas, oil electric, etc.

With such projects beginning to flourish funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, the company owner said, “We anticipate being fairly busy.”

Weist said he is on the board for the National Utility Contractors Association and will soon be attending a meeting with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

“(We will) go through what their plans are, a lot of water and sewer goes into what we are doing,” he said. “Ours is primarily new installations.

“We do have some that are rehab, but most of the stuff that we do is new and fairly large in diameter,” he said.

He said the company’s largest auger at this point is 84 inches in diameter, showing commissioners photos of Byrne-manufactured equipment in use around the country.

The equipment being requested these days often requires more precision and greater technology, Leslie Weist said.

“Especially some of the different gravity sewers, they’re very tight on their tolerances of what type of grade you have to have to maintain the flow of that sewer,” she said. “So it’s getting more and more important to use these types of technologies.”

Michael Byrne

Jim Weist said that’s why Byrne is now doing more of its machining in-house.

“In the past, we had manual lathes and more things like that. And now we’re getting into CNC machines and you don’t really want those in where you’re doing some of your welding and things like that, which we do a fair amount of heavy welding,” he said.

Jim Weist said his father-in-law would be proud of the advancements.

“One thing I think Mike was very proud of was that his granddaughter came back and became involved in the business and it stayed a family business.

“But also the growth in that we’ve taken the business and partnerships and are being recognized within the industry as one of the probably two leading  manufacturers of this type of product in the country,” Jim Weist said.

“It’s also been a challenge as we’ve had to adjust the designs of our machines to meet EPA requirements for the new engines and things like that. Our engineering has really been much more of a focus for us.”

He said electrification of its equipment is something that may be required in the future.

“That’s part of why we’re looking to expand into this building, as well,” he said.

Leslie Wiest, who came back to the family business after almost six years with John Deere, said she is happy to have made the move.

“It’s a big difference, but it’s great. There’s nothing like working for your family and being in your hometown. It’s been great. I enjoy every minute,” she said.

Commissioner Tony Vero said it’s good to see investment.

“It reinforces that Richland (County) is growing in the airport areas. We’ve seen growth in the aviation side. We’ve got the (Ohio Air National Guard) cyber wing coming in,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, commissoners:

— approved the appointment of Judy Forney to the Richland County Children Services Board for a four-year term. She will replace Renee Bessick, who is term-limited from continuing on the board.

— approved a new three-year contract for anti-virus software for the county that will result in a savings of $18,000.

— approved the annexation of 37.723 acres from Troy Township into the Village of Lexington. The property is owned by Lexington Local Schools and largely consists of the new baseball and softball fields and the new soccer practice field as part of the new school construction.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...

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