STOW -- Area residents facing the west front of the U.S. Capitol during President Donald Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration may have been standing on a product made in Stow without realizing it.

Esterle Mold and Machine Co. on Commerce Drive manufactured about 50,000, 8-square-foot plastic interlocking panels designed to protect more than 9 acres of the National Mall's turf while holding the weight of people and equipment.

Esterle Sales Engineer David Lazic said that each of the panels, which are "designed to distribute weight," can hold up to 40 tons without damaging the turf underneath.

"That's a semi [truck]," said Lazic. "Fully loaded."

Lazic said that Esterle aided in fine tuning a concept brought to it by an event planning firm, designed and then manufactured the panels in Stow and sold them to the customer, which leases them out.

"They had the basic idea and we helped develop it," he said.

Company President Richard Esterle said the panels were first used in August 2016 for a Billy Joel concert at Boston's Fenway Park.

"These panels protect the grass while still allowing sunshine and water in," he said.

Lazic added that the "panels can be down for 10 days."

A growing family affair

Esterle said the company is "family owned and operated."

It was started by Esterle's father Adam, who is now the company chairman, in 1976.

"What put Esterle on the map was the design and production of pipe fitting molds," said Esterle.

Adam Esterle was born in Hungary and emigrated to the United States from East Germany in 1953. He had been a partner in another firm before going out on his own.

Richard Esterle's sister, Kathleen Sawyer, is executive vice president and both have adult children who work for the company. They say the third generation in the family being groomed to someday take over.

"We call them Team Three," said Esterle.

The company is not only growing in terms of family members involved, but physically as well. It now has five buildings, all on Commerce Drive, including the current purchase of the 71,000-square-foot former Steel Products building and a 16,000-square-foot warehouse and manufacturing expansion to its plastics building, which was completed in December.

"It will have our new 2,600-ton injection molding machine and a 40-ton overhead crane," said Esterle.

Esterle said the company tries to achieve productivity and efficiencies through automation, but the expansions have increased the number of employees by about 20, to about 70 in all, with more to be hired on an "as needed" basis.

"Skilled labor in manufacturing, we're always looking for it," said Esterle.

Staying in Stow

Esterle Mold and Machine Co. manufactures a wide variety of products in plastic and various forms of steel. Its services include engineering, mold making, machining, forged tooling and injection molding.

It also produces a wide variety of products under its own Tuf-Brand label, including trays, indoor and outside seating and tanks of different types.

The company sells products worldwide, but has a national and even local outlook.

"We make everything in our own buildings or subcontract in the United States," said Esterle.

"And we use local suppliers, whenever possible," added Lazic.

Because of the expansion to its plastics building, Esterle Mold and Machine Co.was awarded the Industrial Expansion award at the Jan. 17 Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce's annual business awards luncheon.

"What sets us apart is our large capacity for manufacturing," said Esterle in his acceptance speech. "Tooling and machining up to 30 tons and plastic injection molding up to 2,600 tons."

Esterle also said that the company is committeed to staying in Stow. Although it has no immediate plans for expansion, Esterle said that the company owns 14.5 acres on Allen Road, some place later on for the "Third Team" to grow the company into.

"Stow has been and remains a great place for our growth," said Esterle. "It's a growing industrial base, it's a growing infrastructure, it's a growing labor pool and our customers enjoy the area. Out future business vision is cautiously optimistic, but we always remain positive."

"In summary," he later concluded, "we like Stow. Stow cares about us. Stow supports us. With continuing investment in technology and automation, we hope to create a lot of new manufacturing jobs."

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