This local manufacturer is riding the e-commerce wave to a new hiring surge

A worker at one of Crown Equipment's New Bremen, Ohio manufacturing floors. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Caption
A worker at one of Crown Equipment's New Bremen, Ohio manufacturing floors. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Crown Equipment, an Ohio truck and loading equipment manufacturer, is riding the e-commerce wave, enjoying record truck sales in the first months of the 2021 and trying to hire hundreds of workers.

“We’re doing pretty well,” Jim Mozer, senior vice president for Crown, said in an interview Wednesday.

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Crown produces lift trucks and material handling equipment used by manufacturers and distribution operations worldwide. For decades, the business has been based in New Bremen, a small village mostly surrounded by farm fields about an hour’s drive north of Dayton.

The new strength is a dramatic bounce-back from a distinct softening of the market in late 2019, down from what were record highs in 2018. In early 2020, the company asked employees to accept voluntary layoffs.

One of Crown Equipment's plant in New Bremen, in a photo taken in late June 2019. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Caption
One of Crown Equipment's plant in New Bremen, in a photo taken in late June 2019. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Mozer would not give the number of employees who accepted the layoffs, but he said it was enough to “right size” the business, even as the pandemic began to take hold on the United States, softening the market further.

“It kind of helped us weather the storm,” he said. “Now we’re in the mode of hiring.”

E-commerce and online retail orders found new strength in 2020. Online orders shot up. Food shipments that might otherwise have gone to restaurants went to busy groceries instead.

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Consumers spent $861 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up 44% against 2019, according to the Digital Commerce 360 web site. That’s the highest annual U.S. e-commerce growth in two decades, the site declared in January 2021.

Crown found itself a part of that. January saw record truck orders, according to nationwide market data that Crown follows, before February broke that record as well, Mozer said.

“It has been a good last few months, to say the least,” he said. “We’re blessed to have good long-term customers that have really increased their business over the last few months with e-commerce and retail.”

That roster of customers is a veritable who’s who of retail heavyweights — Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Costco, Home Depot and others. Crown also supplies rental and new trucks and equipment to medical equipment distributors, who are experiencing their own unique demands right now.

The upshot is a demand for new workers — 100 in Ohio and 300 nationwide.

Mozer wouldn’t break down the company’s number of employees by region. But Crown today has about 16,000 employees globally and about 12,000 in the United States.