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Business of the Year keeps growing in Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Brunner International is putting on addition, adding employees

Photo by Tom Rivers – Brunner International is putting on a 48,000-square-foot addition to its complex at the corner of Route 31 and Bates Road in Medina.

Brad MacDonald, Brunner vice president, has been with the company since it opened in Medina in 1992.

MEDINA – In 1992, Brunner International moved six employees into a cavernous manufacturing plant at the corner of Bates Road and Route 31. Abex Corporation had shut down and the site was vacant for seven years before Brunner moved in.

Brad MacDonald, then a salesman for Brunner, and other company leaders viewed Medina as an ideal location to grow the company in the United States. Brunner makes brakes and components for heavy-duty trucks and trailers.

Brunner made this brake assembly, which is displayed inside the company on Bates Road.

Brunner, which has another site in Niagara Falls, Ontario, wanted to expand into the United States about two decades ago. The company has been on a steady rise the past 22 years, now employing 390 people in Medina. The company is putting on a 48,000-square-foot addition and expects to grow to 450 employees when the expansion is complete, said MacDonald, now vice president of the company.

The current expansion, which should be ready in March, follows a similar expansion five years ago.

The company’s presence has helped fill the gap left by Fisher-Price, which laid off 700 workers in Medina in 1995. MacDonald said the community, with its agricultural roots, has a strong work ethic, and that is a prime ingredient in the company’s success in Medina.

Brunner workers use a forge to heat up parts to 2,200 degrees.

“The Brunner name is known internationally for quality,” MacDonald said while giving a tour of the plant on Monday.

The company was being wooed by other states for its latest expansion, but Brunner decided it wanted to keep growing in Medina. The company has access to lower-cost hydropower, which made Medina competitive with the sites in other states.

“We decided we wanted to be here and support the community,” MacDonald said.

Some axle shafts are on shelves inside the Brunner complex.

The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce will present Brunner with the “Business of the year” award on Saturday during an awards celebration at Tillman’s Village Inn. The company is being recognized for its expansion in Orleans County.

The plant is a busy factory, with steel being heated and shaped into 1,500 different parts for brakes that will be used by tractor-trailers. Steel is the company’s biggest raw material.

The company employs welders, engineers, assembly workers, maintenance staff and other skilled staff.

A large stamping machine shapes parts to be used in truck brakes.

“We have a robust training program,” MacDonald said. “We don’t need people to come in with the skills. We can teach people the skills they will need. They just need a good attitude and a willingness to work.”

Brunner also has robots at work, lifting heavy steel pieces and doing other automated tasks. Bruner’s engineering team programs the robots, which debut about a decade ago at Brunner, for various jobs.

The company has embraced automated technology for some of the tasks inside the plant.

Most of the work is performed by people, and MacDonald said the company welcomes more hard-working residents to apply for positions at Brunner.

MacDonald walks through the complex and there are sparks from welders, heat from the forges and loud noises from the stamping machine. Workers are moving product with fork lifts.

It’s a busy place.

“It’s very exciting, especially when everything is humming,” he said.