Universal Metal Products
U is for Universal Metal Products
In July of 1935 a group of Lowell businessmen and village leaders signed articles of incorporation and a new business was born in Lowell, except the Lowell Metal Products Company was never actually in Lowell.
The company formed to manufacture sprayers, poultry equipment and other metal products. The Board of Directors consisted of John A. Arehart (Treasurer and General Manager), C.H. Runciman (President), Paul Kellogg, Frank M. Newell (Secretary and Sales Manager), R.D. Hahn (Vice President), Earnest C. Foreman, Wesley A. Roth, Frank F. Coons and William Wachterhauser. Most of these men had previously been a part of the Lowell Specialty Company, started in Lowell but had been bought by the H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Company.
Production began in January of 1936. Unfortunately, no building was available at the time in Lowell, so the company decided to occupy the ‘old Shaver Factory’ half a mile east of Saranac. They began with 18 workers and 3 salesmen. The workforce had already grown to 40 by April that first year. The company’s desire to move the company was strong. They considered themselves part of Lowell. The company’s advertisement in the Showboat program in 1936 read, “Lowell Metal Products Company sprayers and dusters, a home industry, owned and managed by home people.” The decision was made to move to Lowell in May of 1936 and building plans were drawn up and permits and approvals were granted. When it came time to actually begin building however, they found it necessary to postpone the idea in order to avoid interruption and delay in manufacturing operations.
In July of 1937 a suit was brought against the company. The Lowell Specialty Company filed suit against the Lowell Metal Products Company for using ‘Lowell’ in the name of a business that was not in Lowell. The judge sided with Lowell Specialty Company against the Lowell Metal Products Company. Terms of the settlement stated that Lowell Metal Products Company had to file within 15 days to change its corporate name and eliminate the word “Lowell” in its advertising literature, business stationery and imprints on its products. The new name selected was Universal Metal Products Company. They were also required to place on their products the legend, “Factory, Saranac Mich.” but they were given the right to use Lowell as the post office address.
Ironically, though the Universal Metal Products Company always intended to be a Lowell business, it found true hometown loyalty through the townspeople of Saranac. In June of 1943 the company suffered from a devastating fire. The plant had converted to the manufacture of war equipment and was working on government war contracts for gas decontamination units. The people of Saranac came together to show their patriotic spirit and hometown pride. The Grand Rapids Press declared, “When peace comes to the world, this village of 810 residents can rightfully claim a share in its glory.” The townspeople worked incessantly to temporarily rebuild the damaged plant, so that the contract for the army chemical warfare service decontamination units could be fulfilled. It was stressed that the whole village came together. The village president, undertaker, butcher, all worked side by side to see this accomplished. If that wasn’t enough, they raised $5,000.00, and the village council voted to give the company five acres of land so that they could begin rebuilding immediately. The company had received invitations to rebuild elsewhere, but they decided that Saranac should continue to be their home. The company continued in Saranac until it was purchased by Air Control Products of Coopersville in 1962.