Family-owned manufacturers confront a succession crisis

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, for Chicago Tribune

Jan 17, 2019

Get Plant Services delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday! Sign up for  Plant Services' complimentary Smart Minute (Monday-Thursday) and Smart Digest  (Friday) e-newsletters to get maintenance and reliability know-how you can put  to use today, plus the latest manufacturing news from around the Web, white  papers, and more. Learn more and subscribe for free today.

Terry Iverson, president and CEO of the manufacturing firm his grandfather founded 88 years ago, loses sleep worrying what will come of the business once he decides to retire.

His kids aren’t interested in taking the reins at Iverson & Co. in Des Plaines, which sells and services machine tools. His vice president had been groomed for ownership but left for another opportunity.

In a new report, the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed the 363 family-owned manufacturing companies it identified in Chicago’s six collar counties with between 20 and 250 workers — a group that collectively employs more than 22,000 people — to gauge how well they were planning for the future.

About three-quarters of respondents had owners over the age of 55, and of those, half had no plans for succession. Nearly 62 percent had not designated a specific successor, up from 38 percent the last time a similar survey was conducted in 1989.

Though these are firms whose names are unknown to the general public, their role in the supply chain represents “the lifeblood” that drives of the success of the state’s $104 billion manufacturing industry, said Dan Swinney, executive director of Manufacturing Renaissance, a Chicago nonprofit that commissioned the survey.

“This is a crisis for the manufacturing sector,” said Swinney.

Read the full story.