The Nation'S Brick Company

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Beldens who are board members and/or employees pose for a family photo during The Belden Brick Co.’s 125th anniversary celebration. THE NATION’S BRICK COMPANY Family-Owned Belden Brick Co. Celebrates 132 Years of Excellence P ay attention. Listen to your customers. Learn as Canton, Ohio-based manufacturer and distributor can trace much as you can about the industry so that your its roots all the way back to 1885, when Bob’s great-grandfa- decisions will help to advance it. ther Henry Belden, an inventor and attorney, helped establish what was then known as the Diebold Fire Brick Co. These are the words of wisdom that inspire many business 18 decisions made by Robert F. “Bob” Belden, President and CEO Little did Henry know that his pioneering efforts would of The Belden Brick Co., currently the largest family-owned serve to anchor the Belden name in the brick industry for and managed brick company in the United States. The well over a century. THE WHO’S WHO IN BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION COURTESY OF JIM MAGUIRE by Erica Bender DISCOVER MORE @ WWW.THEWHOSWHO.BUILD

PAVING A LEGACY IN LEADERSHIP In 1876, a stiff mud brick-making machine featured at the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, Pa., is what first inspired Henry to launch his brick-making business. He started out making clay pavers and fire brick in his hometown of Canton—the first known use of the product in the city. Unlike concrete, a clay paver’s color does not fade or require sealers because the color is literally fired through the body of the unit. Soon, brick pavements were seen across the county, then the state. Henry’s youngest son, Paul Belden Sr., is credited with nimbly guiding The Belden Brick Co. past some of its most challenging capital shortfalls and business reorganizations, as well as through economic downturns and market restrictions resulting from wartime crises, depressions and recessions. Bob speaks reverently of his grandfather, Paul Sr., who worked COURTESY OF THE BELDEN BRICK CO. (TOP); JOE SMITHBERGER (BOTTOM LEFT); JIM MAGUIRE (BOTTOM RIGHT) in the business for 66 years. “He was a very accomplished businessman, civic leader, and a ‘Captain of Industry’ kind of guy who was instrumental in the development of our company and the industry,” he says. Henry Belden, Founder of the Diebold Fire Brick Co. (which was later reorganized into The Belden Brick Co.). Robert F. “Bob” Belden, President and CEO of The Belden Brick Co. Brian Belden, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at The Belden Brick Co. POWERED BY THE BLUE BOOK NETWORK - CLEVELAND & NORTHEAST OHIO / SPRING 2017 19

A number of Paul Sr.’s descendants have helped steer the company in the direction of progress, including Bob, one of the first fourth-generation Beldens to join the team. “In my generation of family members, there were 24 first cousins. It was implied that there wasn’t room in the company for all of us,” explains Bob. “As time went on, my dad (Richard Belden) and his brothers looked around and said, ‘We need to get some new Beldens in here.’ They asked my cousin, An employee unloads a kiln car and palletizes brick, which will later be sent to packaging. William H. “Bill” Belden Jr., to join them. Bill, in turn, invited me to help him run and have enduring value, was very ap- support the company’s success. It’s in- the company.” pealing to me,” he recalls. Bob started dividual contributions that bring value out as the company’s Vice President to a business—not just the fact that The decision to leave a lucrative career of Marketing from 1983 to 1995, was you’re a family member.” as a market maker in Chicago was not elected President in 1995, added CEO an easy one. Bob and his wife, Kathy, to his job responsibilities in 2008, Now, a fifth generation of Beldens is had established a comfortable life for and just last year was named Chair involved in the family operation, in- themselves and their four children. of the Board. cluding Bill Jr.’s son, Brian Belden (the Plus, he had no real experience in the brick industry. first in his generation to be employed For someone who’s straddling the full-time), Bob’s son, Robert T. Belden, fence on working in a family-operat- and cousins Bradley Belden and John But the opportunity to play a mean- ed company, Bob’s advice is this: “You Streb. Bob’s daughter, Julia, also used ingful role in his family’s business need to have an interest in the busi- to work in the company. prompted Bob to take a chance. “To ness, and a passion for what the busi- be involved in an enterprise that ac- ness stands for. You also must identify In addition to the Beldens, several tually makes things, things that last how your contributions will ultimately generations from many different families have worked at The Belden Brick Co. Families such as the Hartungs, Swindermans, Schrocks, Myers, and Finzers. Longstanding employees like Bettie Rairigh and Burke Wentz, who each gave 59 years of faithful service before they retired, exemplify how emand strengthen an organization. “You could say that brick-making is as much in their blood as it is in ours. The Belden Brick Co. has been fortunate to have many dedicated, loyal employees throughout its history whose commit- Artisans from The Belden Brick Co.’s Special Shapes Division form bricks by hand, providing custom-tailored design options that fit the end-user’s exact needs. 20 THE WHO’S WHO IN BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION ment to excellence has been unwavering,” says Bob. PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOE ALBERT ployees’ allegiance serves to sustain DISCOVER MORE @ WWW.THEWHOSWHO.BUILD

In October 2016, Kent State University celebrated the grand opening of its new Center for Architecture and Environmental Design. The Belden Brick Co. supplied the 91,000 custom bricks used on the building’s exterior. “The Belden Brick Co. has been fortunate to have many dedicated, loyal employees throughout its history whose commitment to excellence has been unwavering. You could say that brick-making is as much in their blood as it is in ours.” Bob Belden, President and CEO, The Belden Brick Co. A CUT ABOVE THE REST “One of our biggest transitions happened in 1946 when we purchased The Finzer Brothers Clay Co. in Sugarcreek, Aside from having loyal employees, The Belden Brick Co.’s Ohio, where all our manufacturing takes place today,” says longevity is a testament to its ability to anticipate fluctuating Brian, who serves as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. consumer needs and adapt to industry advancements. Diversification in terms of manufacturing capabilities, product Later, in 1955, Belden management authorized construction offerings, and distribution areas—as well as heavy invest- of the country’s largest face brick and building tile manufac- ments in technology over the past two decades—has kept turing plant at this site, which became operational in 1957. the company afloat. Buoyed by the area’s plentiful supply of quality, raw material and a hardworking labor force, a decade later the company constructed the largest brick plant ever built under one roof. Brian continues, “Now we have a total of five brick plants. The most recent one opened in 2001 and is state-of-the-art.” This production facility’s unique use of robotic systems enables brick to travel through the entire plant without being touched by human hands. “The kiln technology is different from our other plants. The brick is not stacked as high, which facilitates a 36-hour firing cycle versus the typical 72-hour firing cycle in our other facilities, cutting time nearly in half. We manufacture about 20 different sizes of product.” In this beehive kiln—a round brick structure wrapped with steel bands to control heat expansion—bricks are stacked with narrow spaces between them so that heat will circulate completely around the product. “We’ve built a reputation for providing a unique array of quality products. The offering of different sizes and POWERED BY THE BLUE BOOK NETWORK - CLEVELAND & NORTHEAST OHIO / SPRING 2017 21

The company provided Monarch Commodore Smooth bricks for the Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the U.S. textures—and staying within the tol- with around 500 of those members With an attitude of optimism and hope, erances specified—is what we pride working for The Belden Brick Co. the Belden leadership team has a con- ourselves on,” says Brian. He adds, “While a lot of other manufacturers will specialize in a limited number of products, we work more on an individu- STACKING FUTURE PROSPECTS facilities, and by keeping up with in- Though the team doesn’t regularly formation technology advances that duction in accordance with each job’s interact with end-users, understand- make our people and machinery more requirements. We’ve got a great team ing the needs of every job is key to productive, we can maneuver through of experienced production people and successful customer relations—and this modern, fast-paced economy other staff who help us offer building repeat business. while maintaining our company’s core turers don’t offer.” values and traditions,” says Brian. “Keeping the lines of communication open is critical. Developing the job as Bob concludes: “Our ability to adapt, The company also runs a saw house it goes along and doing so in a timely to advance our knowledge and the facility in Sugarcreek and distributor- fashion is always important. We work industry as a whole, has held strong ships in New York and Michigan. It with our distributors—and in essence, for 132 years—and is what will carry even ships chemical-resistant brick the architects, owners and mason us forward.” products internationally. contractors who buy from them—to Belden Holding & Acquisition Co., ensure they get exactly what they One could say that The Belden Brick need,” says Brian. Co.’s legacy of entrepreneurship, in- Inc., is the parent company of several COURTESY OF JIM MAGUIRE “By continuously reinvesting in our al job-by-job basis and specify our pro- solutions that many other manufac- 22 fident outlook on the future. vention, innovation and perseverance subsidiary companies, including The As is the case in many industries, the embodies the true essence of fulfilling Belden Brick Co. and Redland Brick last several years have been difficult the American dream. Co. Combined, these two subsidiaries due to economic decline. To overcome have an annual production capacity of this challenge, The Belden Brick Co. Author Bio: Erica Bender, a Texas-based nearly 550 million SBE (standard brick is looking into expanding its product freelance writer and communications equivalent). Belden Holdings & Acquisi- line and is considering new market consultant, has worked with clients in tion Co. employs more than 700 staff, opportunities in the U.S. and Canada. the AEC industry for 14 years. THE WHO’S WHO IN BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION DISCOVER MORE @ WWW.THEWHOSWHO.BUILD

COURTESY OF THE BELDEN BRICK CO. (TOP); JOE SMITHBERGER (BOTTOM LEFT); JIM MAGUIRE (BOTTOM RIGHT) company and the industry," he says. Robert F. "Bob" Belden, President and CEO of The Belden Brick Co. Brian Belden, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at The Belden Brick Co. Henry Belden, Founder of the Diebold Fire Brick Co.

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