Saturday, August 04, 2001

City's economic pain gets worse

Mosler closing has impact on Hamilton

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The closing of Mosler Inc. was not only an economic but a symbolic blow, striking yet another name from this city's roster of well-known companies.

        Mosler's history been woven tightly around Hamilton's for more than a century.

        Employees cleaned out their desks Friday after being told the company was closing because of financial problems.

        A spokeswoman for Hamilton's Economic Development Department said the firm didn't notify the city of the closing. She said it employed 200 to 300 people in the area.

        It's the latest in a series of closures or cutbacks by major Hamilton businesses. Mercy Hospital (459 employees) closed in June because it faced losing $39 million over the next three years.

        Since earlier this year, the city has been trying to cut expenses and increase revenues to make up for a projected $1.5 million shortfall. The city has also lost payroll taxes and other revenue after hundreds of jobs were cut by Ohio Casualty Group and International Paper.

        The name Mosler once was synonymous with bank safes. The company formed in Cincinnati in 1867 when Gustav Mosler designed safes for industries. In 1891, the company moved to Hamilton, where it continued to maintain its corporate headquarters.

        During World War II, Mosler's factories produced turrets for Sherman tanks and steel assemblies for warships. When the nuclear age began, Mosler designed and built special vault doors to protect secret installations against atomic blasts.

        Most recently, Mosler operated 70 branch offices and employed 1,700 people nationally in direct sales, service, installation and customer support offices. The company made electronic and physical security systems as well as its old staple of safes and “transaction-based systems.”

        “The company probably peaked in the '50s, when they went into drive-in windows,” said Oscar Bodner, a veteran employee who worked in receiving until his retirement in 1991. “Mosler made the best drive-in windows, the Cadillac of industry. They did good with deposit boxes, too. They also sold security files to the government in the '70s. That was big then.

        “They just made a good product. That was the problem. It was too good. You could pass it down to your grandchild, it was so durable.”

        He said the company lost some government contracts when more competitive bidding was required in the 1980s.

        At its zenith, Mosler was one of Hamilton's more respected employers. It operated Plant 1, the main factory on Grand Boulevard; the research and development office on Ohio 4 in Fairfield; Plant 2, on Laurel Avenue in Hamilton; an international office and factory on Belle Avenue; and a lock company in Milford.

        Gradually, all closed except for the main plant. The new offices, at 8550 and 8509 Berk Blvd. in Hamilton (near Fairfield), opened in the early 1980s. They continued to operate after the No. 1 manufacturing plant closed in the early 1990s.

        The company's main headquarters on Berk included a display center, education center, corporate offices and support offices.

        Hamilton has suffered major job losses in the last couple of years from the closings of Mercy Hospital Hamilton, International Paper's offices and the Ohio Casualty Group.

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