AVON, Ohio — From Cleveland to Columbus and Toledo to Cincinnati, Ohio is packed with companies who call the Buckeye State home.
As part of the News 5 Cleveland Buckeye Built series, reporter Meg Shaw went behind the scenes at the brand who's responsible for making Avon the duct tape capital of the world: Duck Brand.
Duct tape was first invented during World War II when American soldiers were using the adhesive to repair broken items and even as bandages. It was after the war, the use of the tape transitioned. It started being used in duct work—holding ventilation ducts together. Thus the name duct tape was born.
Fast forward to 1971, when Jack Kahl purchased the Melvin Anderson Company. Kahl shortened the name to Manco Inc. The duct tape manufacturing company was responsible for being the first company to sell the product inside retail stores.
In 1980, Kahl officially created a branded duct tape under the Duck and Duck Tape trademarks. The next five to ten years marked significant growth for the company. Manco Inc. hit record sales of $60 million.
In 1996, the brand moved their corporate headquarters to Avon. In 2001, Kahl retired as CEO and his son, John, took over.
The company gained worldwide recognition in the early 2000s after creating the annual Duck Tape Festival for the community of Avon. In 2004 the Mayor of Avon declared the company's headquarters as the Duck Tape capital of the world.
In 2009, ShurTape Technologies bought the brands from Henkel's, forming its own company, ShurTech.
The Duck Brand world headquarters sits on 211 acres in Avon.
According to AvonHistory.org, the company expanded from their original 205-acre plot to 211 because, "Jack Kahl said 3M (their biggest rival in the duct tape field at the time) sits on 210 acres," said Robert Wagner, the plant's safety and security manager.
The facility is a boasting 660,000 square feet. The tape, and other products sold under the brand, aren't made inside the plant. Rather they're shipped to Ohio from the ShurTech factory located in North Carolina.
The Avon plant is considered a packing and converting facility.
“Depending on what the customer needs and if we have the inventory, we’ll hurry up and shuffle [product] into whatever pack size or lengths and widths that they want and we can get it out the door," said Scott Steinmetz, the Duck Brand plant manager.
Bubble wrap, shelf and weather liners are just some of the dozens of products converted and shipped out from Avon.
"It's great to see the growth of a business people taking new opportunities," said Bill Kahl, the vice president of marketing for Duck Brand, said.
Bill is the son of former CEO, Jack Kahl.
Duck Brand was one of the first large manufacturing businesses to plant their roots in Avon.
Kahl said since the company moved to the community of Avon, they've recorded steady growth and have maintained being a top employer in the city.
"We wanted to be a good corporate partner," Kahl said. "This has been where we wanted to put our roots in the ground and we have for a long time now, and we believe that Avon to be a great community to work in.”
According to the city of Avon's website, ShurTech, the parent company of the Duck Brand, is the third largest employer in the city of Avon, behind the Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital and the Avon Local School District.
Duck Tape Festival
In 2004, Duck Brand hosted their first Avon Hertiage Duck Tape Festival.
"We knew that Duck Tape was the perfect creative venue to partner up with the hometown festival so we were really excited."
This year marks the 17th annual festival.
Each year the festival is centered around a theme, helping Duck Tape enthusiasts create life size sculptures. The 2020 theme is "City of Blooms,” honoring the roots of Avon by paying homage to the city’s former Festival of Flowers.
Shelley Price, the vice president of product marketing, said each year the festival grows larger and larger.
“We’ve had people from all 50 states and always international visitors that come just for the festival," Price said.
The brand has now formed a partnership with the University of Cincinnati to bring the Duck Tape sculptures to life. They've partnered with the university's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. The students in the college are responsible for creating life-size sculptures centered around the theme.
"It's a great connection for the state of Ohio and it's a great partnership," Price said. "Students really embrace it and take it to the next level.
One change for the 2020 festival is the location. This year the annual festival is scheduled for June 25-27 at the Crushers Stadium.
Stuck at Prom
This year ShurTech and the Duck Brand are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest.
The contest challenges high schools students to create prom attire using only Duck Tape.
"We were amazed the very first year of how creative and the quality of the entries that we got. They just continue to get better and better," said Price.
Over the past ten years the company has given out $500,000 to student winners.
The grand prize winners in the dress and tux category each win $10,000 followed by $500 in cash prizes to the runner-ups in each category.
The company chooses the top 10 entries and then public has the opportunity to vote for the winner. Price said not only does this challenge students to be creative, but it also helps them with marketing skills because they have to promote themselves.
"It's about creative design, we've had kids go on to in fashion merchandising, but it's also about marketing and promotion. So it's really great for a variety of college opportunities."
For more information on the Stuck at Prom Contest, click here.
Read more stories from the Buckeye Built series here.