While API is currently one of the largest employers in Eau Claire and custom rubber mixing plants in America, the area has a long history of manufacturing spanning over a century before its founding. Check out this article to learn more about what products and companies came first.
According to the City of Eau Claire Economic Development Division, “Manufacturing employs about 10,000 people in Eau Claire and the sector contains some of the area’s largest employers.”
American Phoenix, Inc. is proud to be one such employer that strives to honor the history of Eau Claire manufacturing in the work we do each day. To do this, we’ve taken a look back at how the area’s major industries evolved over time.
In the second half of the 19th century, settlers arrived in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area and started working in local sawmills as the lumber industry began to boom. The first mill was erected in 1846 and, after being destroyed by a flood and subsequently rebuilt, eventually became the host of Eau Claire Lumber company.
By 1890 there were more than 75 sawmills and factories in operation in the area, leading it to become the largest lumber-producing center in the world. This earned Eau Claire the nickname “Sawdust City”, which remained until the early 20th century when the lumber industry began to decrease.
The Rise of Rubber
As lumber production declined, the rubber industry started to gain traction. In 1916, Raymond Gillette founded Gillette Safety Tire Company in Eau Claire, which became a major manufacturer of automobile and bicycle tires alongside other rubber products. The company soon became the largest industrial employer in the city and one of the world’s leading producers of automobile tires.
A series of acquisitions took place in the following years, and the plant eventually became Uniroyal, Inc. (formerly U.S. Rubber) for approximately fifty years. It was then bought by Michelin in 1990, only to shut down just two years later and subsequently be purchased and renamed Banbury Place. Then, in 1992, American Phoenix, Inc. was founded, taking over a large manufacturing section of the property as well as the area’s tire production. Currently, the Eau Claire branch of API is one of the largest custom rubber mixing plants in America.
Today, Eau Claire hosts numerous other types of manufacturing companies such as Silver Spring Foods, the world’s largest grower and producer of horseradish; Nestle USA, which locally produces infant formula and a variety of nutritional products; Lippert, which manufactures and engineers highly-quality components for the RV, marine and automotive industries; Phillips Medisize, a medical device development company; Veritas Steel, a leading bridge fabricator.
Due to its well-diversified economy and growing population, it is likely that Eau Claire will continue to be a hotspot for a variety of manufacturers as demand in certain industries increases. Currently, 20% of businesses in the area are part of the manufacturing industry cluster.
If you’d like to be part of the manufacturing history of Eau Claire, visit our careers page to see our available opportunities.