Louis G. Freeman, a machine installer and service man for a predecessor company of the United Shoe Machinery Company, founds the Louis G. Freeman Company. He leaves his employer because he has ideas for new machines that they are reluctant to develop. First company headquarters is located at 210-12-14 East 9th Street, Cincinnati, OH.
- The Louis G. Freeman Company is incorporated in the State of Ohio.
- Founder Louis G. Freeman begins transfer of control and ownership of the company to his sons and daughters.
- Freeman develops equipment to simultaneously trim and perforate shoe uppers accurately, making the production of “wing tips” and other perforated shoes cost effective. The Company begins a period of rapid growth moving several times to larger quarters in downtown Cincinnati.
- This decade sees the development of a larger and faster trim and perforating machine that is so popular around the world that “Freeman Machine” becomes the generic name in the shoe industry for any machine that cuts and perforates. To accommodate continuing growth, the Company moves to a 60,000 sq ft building at 1819 Freeman Avenue in the West End.
- The war brings a virtual end to shoe machinery production and the U.S.Government asks the Company to become a subcontractor to Cincinnati Milling Machine Co making parts for military aircraft. After the war, business booms as the Company fills pent up demand for its products.
- The Company establishes die shops in a number of shoe centers to meet the demand for the perforating tools that are used in the ”Freeman Machine”. In 1951, as demand soars, competitors are licensed to manufacture these dies as well.
- Louis G. Freeman Jr., the youngest of the founder’s children, takes over leadership of the company.
- Louis G. Freeman III joins his father in the business. An employee stock purchase plan is initiated to transfer ownership of the company from Freeman family members to employees. This first step begins the reinvention of the Company.
- Globalization of the shoe manufacturing business begins in earnest. The shoe industry in the United States begins a slow, irreversible slide to virtual extinction and Freeman begins the difficult task of changing from a product driven Company to one that is more customer focused. This essential and important step in the reinvention of the Company leads to diversification of both its customer and product base. To facilitate expansion into new markets, the Company acquires Fremont Tool & Die Co, a manufacturer of precision cutting dies located in Fremont, OH.
The Louis G. Freeman Company moves to a new 69,000 sq. ft. building in Erlanger, KY, near the Greater Cincinnati Airport, to be “closer” to its increasingly international customers.
- The Company name is shortened to “Freeman Company,” reflecting increasingly broad employee ownership.
The Company begins to manufacture thermoform tooling at the Fremont Plant as a natural extension of its sharp edge product line for this industry.
- The Company invests in a new, multi-million dollar facility in Fremont, OH to accommodate the overwhelming acceptance of Freeman tooling by major thermoformers producing food packaging. Six out of the ten largest quickly become customers.
- The acquisition of the Schwabe cutting press brand with a large international customer base, and the formation of a partnership with a leading Taiwanese press manufacturer to make its presses, allows Freeman to accelerate the globalization of its business. This final key step in the reinvention of the business allows the Company to offer the most comprehensive line of cutting presses in the world, but at the same time adds considerably to the complexity of the business.
- The Board of Directors determines that the Company has now evolved into two distinct and rapidly growing businesses, die cutting and thermoforming, each bidding for limited financial and management resources. To achieve maximum potential and customer satisfaction at each business, the Board sells the cutting press and miscellaneous other businesses based in Erlanger to the Company’s CEO, Greg DeFisher and several other Erlanger employees. The Company moves its headquarters to the Fremont, Ohio facility where it continues to produce thermoform tooling, cutting dies, and folding equipment.
Larry Mears, Senior Vice President, becomes the new CEO of Freeman Co. The response of customers sends the backlog of orders to record highs. Management responds to this vote of confidences by implementing an ambitious capital equipment and human resource acquisition program to meet expanding production requirements. Continued investment in technology and people ensure Freeman remains the industry leader for another 100+ years.