YPSILANTI (WJRT) - (07/20/16) - There's a Michigan company that has been climbing the ladder of success for more than 100 years. While competitors build their ladders overseas, Michigan Ladder has its base firmly planted here.
Tucked away in Ypsilanti, Michigan Ladder is making wood, fiberglass and aluminum ladders for those in the construction industry.
"A lot of people don't know our brand because we're not at the retail side of the business. Our ladders are used by people who make their living on a ladder," said Tom Harrison, Michigan Ladder Company president and owner.
Michigan Ladders are sold at many wholesale suppliers and lumber yards.
Most of the manufacturing is done in a building they call “The Barn.” It was built in 1901.
Michigan Ladder is the oldest ladder company in the United States. About 30 people work there. Up to 200,000 ladders are made there every year.
"The fact of the matter is we're extremely good at what we do. We do make a very good product and we have a very devoted workforce to make sure we put out a quality product," Harrison said.
A number of the workers have been there for more than 30 years.
"I used to unload the boxcars when I was 14. My father worked here. My two brothers worked here. My cousins worked here," said Buddy Castle, who has been with the company 38 years.
They're proud to place the Michigan Ladder sticker on each product that goes out the door.
"I've shown people around the world that sticker and it feels very good," said Scott Bruneau, who works in quality control.
Bruneau inspects each piece of wood that goes into a ladder.
"It's probably the highest quality wood used in manufacturing," Bruneau said.
He's looking for defects that could weaken a ladder. Bruneau cuts off the defects and throws them in a box. That wood is saved and will be burned in the winter to help keep the plant warm.
"We recycle our aluminum, our fiberglass, our sawdust," Harrison said.
These Michigan-made ladders are sent all over the eastern half of the U.S., South America, Africa and Asia.
"Our wood ladders are extremely popular in Japan. They can't get wood, so we sell a number of wood ladders to the Japanese markets," said Bob Hoernschemeyer, sales manager.
Michigan Ladder started in the state 115 years ago and has no plans to leave.
"We like doing business in Michigan. This building and our land is our home," Harrison said.