The Road to Growth

Herman Bredenbeck recounts how WIRE-Net expanded in its early years, and how the organization worked to improve Cleveland's crumbling infrastructure


Herman Bredenbeck

Three years into its launch, WIRE-Net continued to reach out to westside manufacturers in an effort to grow the organization. By 1991, more than 100 businesses had become members of this burgeoning group, which was intently focused on addressing the specific issues that concerned westside manufacturers at the time.

Herman Bredenbeck took the reins as Board President in 1991, and said his contract machining business, Advance Manufacturing Co., had joined WIRE-Net earlier because of the many benefits the advocacy group was offering its members.

"Our interest was in participating in some of the activities they provided," said Bredenbeck. "Assistance to local manufacturing, providing manufacturing education programs, support in financing through local banks, and simply the social activities they provided among similar units of activity."

Bredenbeck leaned on those benefits to attract and grow WIRE-Net's membership. "During my term we were active in growing the WIRE-Net core group from 100 members to 50 percent more. We were actively involved with visiting companies to enthuse them into joining the WIRE-Net principles, which to me was a win-win situation because John (Colm, WIRE-Net's founder) had developed some relationships with the city, economic development groups, and banking relationships. And that . . . provided some real benefits to members."

"[WIRE-Net] has succeeded in making a lasting impression on the City of Cleveland."

One benefit in particular was working with the city of Cleveland to improve the major roads that carried transport vehicles from plant to highway. Bredenbeck explained that, even in 1991, those deteriorating roadways posed serious challenges to the manufacturers (and residents) who traversed them on a daily basis.

"One particular instance was W. 65th Street which goes from Denison Avenue running north, past Gordon Square and past Detroit Avenue," he said. I-71 was a feeder of W. 65th Street, but unfortunately it had become a wagon trail of bad infrastructure. The road was deteriorating quickly.

"John had requested a meeting with Mayor (Michael) White and he was in his second term as mayor. He had a certain reputation as being a forthright, straight-talking and somewhat assertive individual. So we met in the Mayor's office during the campaign to provide an incentive to the city to repave and create a transit system from Denison Avenue down W. 65th Street for trucks and local traffic, which at time was kind of a rutted thoroughfare.

"We had some 'assertive' discussions with Mayor White, which was surprising to me, having never participated in that kind of a meeting," he continued. "And John expressed rather forcefully to Mayor White - using his research, the conditions, and the amount of traffic - the handicaps of having the street in the condition that it was. And they had some fairly forceful conversations about that. Frankly that surprised me because I was a neophyte in dealing with those kind of situations.

"Three to four months later, we learned that they were going to rehabilitate W. 65th Street from Denison Avenue through. And at that time, it was quite an accomplishment, in view of the situation that Cleveland had found itself during those times."

Bredenbeck said that infrastructure improvement was just one of the stand-out initiatives that WIRE-Net excelled at in the early 90s. And it was a major factor that helped the organization grow.

Looking back, Bredenbeck pointed out that the organization he once led has succeeded in making a lasting impression on the City of Cleveland.

"The period that I was first involved in WIRE-Net was a period where the manufacturing base in Cleveland was declining," he said. "I think that with the institution of WIRE-Net and others in other areas, I think that's been arrested. Not only because the economy in the U.S. has provided some impetus, but with some of the advantages that WIRE-Net provides (employee training, access to financing information, training of management people, connections with different markets that may not have been available to us independently), I think that WIRE-Net has provided some real direction to companies that will allow them to grow."

"There are a number of facets that WIRE-Net provides its membership. First, use WIRE-Net to acquire means to hire skilled people, both management people as well as hourly people. Second, take advantage of some of the subsidy financial programs that the state and the city offers. And third, budding industries that may not be familiar with some of the members, and long term members seeking new business opportunities should use the (connections) information that WIRE-Net projects to grow their businesses."

"As far as John is concerned, frankly I'm surprised that he's maintained that position for so long, because he certainly is a bright, skillful person."

Herman Bredenbeck, WIRE-Net Board Chairman, 1991-1992

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