Northeast Ohio’s Revitalization: What boomeranged me from Chicago to Cleveland

HaasFamilyPhoto 2015 Aug

As President of Bud Industries, an enclosure manufacturer in Willoughby, I get the opportunity to talk to many other leaders in the manufacturing industry. In these conversations, one thing I keep hearing is that for first time in a full generation, many companies have reinvested Stateside and are updating their equipment with technology and robotics to stay competitive in their markets. These types of reinvestments are occurring all over Ohio, and Northeast Ohio is no exception .  It has been exciting to see this transformation taking place at our own company and with many of the business leaders I talk to on a frequent basis. .  What I see is Northeast Ohio’s revitalized  commitment to manufacturing, which is helping to propel our entire region forward.

Recently, the Cleveland Plus team sent some questions about my boomerang back to Northeast Ohio. Read below to hear my revitalization story and why I chose to bring my wife and our two boys to Cleveland.

Tell us about your business and the primary industry in which you operate:  

Bud Industries is the best-known electronic enclosure manufacturer in the United States. We produce anything from small plastic boxes to large cabinet racks, including watertight boxes. While our enclosures primarily sell into the electronics industry, our customer base is diverse enough to be sold into virtually every vertical market. We can provide any electronic enclosure solution. From steel to aluminum, from plastic to fiberglass, the Bud line is the most extensive in the industry. Bud will also customize their products to allow for turn­key installation.” 

Bud Window Image

We understand that you grew up in Cleveland. Can you tell us about that?  

“I grew up in Shaker Heights, a suburb outside of Cleveland.  Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Cleveland was thought of as ‘a struggling city.’ To me, Cleveland was always a great place to live and raise a family.  After graduating from Indiana University in Bloomington, I moved to Chicago and spent a few years working for a Fortune 500 company and improving my sales skills.  This was a great opportunity to live in a new city and ‘make it on my own,’ despite the desire to eventually join my family business.  My girlfriend at the time, Dana (who is now my wife of almost 9 years), grew up in New Orleans and moved to Chicago with me.  After 2 years of Chicago, Dana and I had a long talk about Cleveland and the benefits it could offer us.  She visited Cleveland a few times, including one fateful April snowstorm where we had over a foot of snow in one weekend.  

I will tell you: the winters of Cleveland made me perform my best sales pitch, ever: to bring a southern girl to Cleveland.”

What finally brought you and Dana back to Cleveland?

“My wife and I were both in jobs that we were not thrilled with and a position in sales opened up at Bud Industries, making the timing to come back to Cleveland perfect for us.  Heading into our mid ­20s, we wanted more stability and to put down roots in a city.  I spent my summers working at Bud Industries through college and knew that was where I wanted to be.  Unlike Chicago, Cleveland offered affordable housing, great communities, and an ample amount of small businesses and nonprofits who were hiring.  We visited Cleveland a few months before moving back to look for a home to buy.  We ended up buying a great home for a young couple, in Shaker Heights.  

I often joked with two college friends of mine who also purchased places to live right around that time.  One purchased a 1-­bedroom condo 10 miles north of downtown Chicago and one purchased a two-bedroom townhouse in Atlanta.  Both friends came in to visit me after we moved in and were shocked at the value you got for the cost.  Both spent a lot more than I did, for a lot less space.  

While I came back to work in a family business, there were also a lot of startups to choose from. On top of the lower cost of living, over the past few years, it seems like newer entrepreneurs are always creating companies in Northeast Ohio and looking for new talent.  To me, the value of working for a small business gives people the ability to work in multiple departments as opposed to only doing sales or only staring at numbers.  For me, it is neat to know I go to work each day and try something different or tackle a new challenge.  As Bud Industries has grown over the past few years, I have been able to partner with our management team to find ways to improve our company and reinvest in equipment to make us a viable manufacturer moving forward. It has been fun to review options and once the equipment is installed, see the benefits.”

You mentioned some of the things that Cleveland offers residents, can you expand on those?

“We moved back to Cleveland at a time when many of our current friends also became boomerang Clevelanders, moving back after spending their post college years in other large cities like New York, Washington DC, and Chicago.  What’s interesting is how many brought back significant others from other cities including Baltimore, Buffalo, Cherry Hill NJ, Columbus, Denver, Miami, and New York City.  Over the past few years as we have all had children, those who came from other cities have also gotten their parents to move to Cleveland.  Cleveland offers many great draws for potential residents, including more affordable major and minor league sports teams, world-class museums and theatre district, top-rated musicians, and neat neighborhoods to explore.  Cleveland was also recently rated as one of the United States’ best restaurant cities with new eateries always popping up.”

HaasFamilyPhoto 2015 Aug

What is it like to raise a family in Cleveland?

“A major draw to Cleveland for parents is the community feel and great public and private schooling options.  Many of the suburbs offer great playgrounds, parks, pools, and activities to fill in the week.  My two boys’ (Asher and Levi) activities range from t­ball, to Gymboree, library programs, to mommy and me classes, and all are within a few miles of home.”

How would you characterize Northeast Ohio?

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“Cleveland is heading in the right direction.  The newspapers and business journals are constantly touting new businesses growing in our area. Established and new businesses are also always setting standards for their industries.  From conversations I have had with other local business leaders, we are seeing a revival within multiple industries which gives our community a more diverse and stable base. The days of Cleveland being an ‘outdated city’ are a thing of the past.  My Grandfather, Phil, used to talk about how Cleveland was an important city in the business community and how thrilling it was to live in a city with that kind of excitement during his youth.  I believe Cleveland is on its path to seeing similar success once again.”

Josiah Haas is President of Bud Industries.  To find out more about Bud Industries and the products they offer, visit them online at www.budind.com. You can also follow them on Twitter: @Budbox.