SATURDAY SUB - Marking the end of a remarkable era

June 15, 2013 — By Mark Miller

We dined with some out-of-town friends last weekend. There was the usual question: “What’s new in Bluffton?”
And the usual response: “Oh, not much.”
But I got to thinking and in short order said “Well, hold on.”
While the wind farm debates and discussions have certainly been in the news, there’s lots more. Several industries are hiring and a couple are expanding their facilities, we’ve long been blessed with some very steady snack-food plants, there are any number of people that I could talk about and besides all that there will be another significant event this summer but it’s been a bit under the radar.
“What’s that?” our friend asked.
“Franklin Electric’s headquarters will be moving to their new facilities in July,” I replied.
Of course, I was aware of all this because we are a) working on our annual “Who We Are” edition which makes you unusually aware of the usual and b) I decided a couple of months ago that we could not let the Franklin era come to an end without some recognition.
The initial plan was to do a series of four articles focused on Franklin’s history — the products, the people and their very significant role in local history. It became one of those projects that takes on a life of its own.
Each person I talked with gave me names of at least two others that I needed to talk to. Digging into our archives uncovered additional angles. There were people and events that could not be ignored. The more I learned, the more I wanted to tell.
And it remains a work still in progress.
But June is getting along. If I’m going to get all of this in by mid-July (Franklin’s anticipated move completion) we need to get going.
So, today on our front page we begin a series of articles marking “The End of an Era” as I have chosen to name it. There will not be an article every day as we move along, but most days for the rest of the month and into July.
Franklin’s move, formally announced in early August 2011 but pretty much a conceded fact as early as 2007, is somewhat akin to taking your child to college for the first time. “Bittersweet” does not do it justice. As you are with your child leaving the nest, Bluffton has to feel a huge amount of pride in being an integral part of the birth and maturation of such a remarkable company.
But the apprehension of that departure is, of course, understandable.
I was not able to talk to all of those people I was referred to, but I believe I’ve talked to enough — well, not quite, I still need to talk with one or two more key players — to be able to paint the narrative of Bluffton being the nurturers of a new company, and how that company grew to help nurture its hometown as well.
While it is a remarkable story, it is, above all else, a success story.
And thus we begin.
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