Developing: National Standard closes after 117 years in Niles

Published 3:14 pm Friday, March 22, 2024

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NILES — A manufacturer that has called Niles home for 117 years is closing its doors.

National Standard, 1631 Lake St., a leading wire manufacturer, announced the closure of its Niles facilities Friday morning, according to employees. The business employed approximately 85 people. Plant leadership declined to comment.

Day shift staff members and employees were notified the plant was closing Friday morning and were allegedly given 15 minutes to collect their belongings before going home. Night shift staff were made aware via texts from coworkers and Facebook posts ahead of a planned afternoon meeting with leadership. 

While the last day for most employees was Friday, a select group of workers will remain to finish things before the plant officially closes its doors April 5. There is a severance and medical benefits will be active until the end of April.

According to employees, National Standard’s closure is disappointing but not surprising.

“We’ve had rumors for over a week now about layoffs and about cutting down to two shifts,” said NS Quality Control Technician Courtney Bennett. “We didn’t have new orders coming in and some of our replacement machinery had been shipped to another plant instead. There wasn’t any warning about a total shutdown, but everyone knew something was going on.”

Bennett had been with the company for two years and knows the impact its closure will have on her coworkers and the greater Niles area.

“I’m luckier than most. I’m in a stable financial situation,” she said. “The company had its problems but I did love my specific position, it was a really good fit for me. So I am bummed out but not devastated, and I won’t be immediately hurting over it. I know that’s not the case for everybody.”

National Standard officially opened for business in Niles in 1907 as the National Cable and Manufacturing Company and the producer and marketer of scientific lightning protection cables.

In 1910, the company was approached by the tire industry, which was in the process of switching from solid tires to balloon style. The tire industry was looking for National to use its success in lightning protection products to manufacture a steel flat braid, which became known as tire bead. Like the automotive industry, National was poised to take off with new demand for its products.

​​National Standard became the market leader in tire bead production by 1935 with more than a 95 percent market share. During the 1930s, the company also began to diversify its portfolio and soon found itself owning businesses that made items such as ornamental wire craft products, for example, lamps, vases, tire covers, waste baskets and fire screens.

In 1942, National Standard developed a stainless steel wire for magnetic sound recordings and quickly led the industry in recording wires.

In 1963, National Standard introduced a gas-cleaned stainless steel welding wire. Followed by an introduction of carbon based solid wire, National Standard was on its way to market leadership in the welding industry. Innovation was quick to follow with NS developing a distributor respooling program that provided the foundation from which to grow its welding business. The early 1970s brought even more innovation from National Standard with the introduction of its Copper-Free weld wire. 

National Standard has been under the ownership of the Heico Wire Group since 2000. In 2021, the abandoned National Standard property on Wayne and Howard — known to many residents as the “Heico Building” — was demolished following several fires on the property.

This is a developing story. will be updated as more information becomes available.