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Family Feud

 

continued

from investors and a line of credit from a Detroit bank secured by Ford himself, Herrick moved the firm one county east and renamed it Tecumseh Products.

After Ray's son, Kenneth, came back from World War II and took charge, the company flourished making compressors for window air conditioners. By 1960, its plants in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Canada were turning out ten million compressors a year, and the company had diversified into a more visible product-small gasoline engines for lawn mowers and garden equipment.

"It was a total company town back then," Tecumseh mayor Harvey Schmidt remembers fondly. "Almost everybody you knew had a dad who worked there. My dad worked there. My friends' dads all worked there. But it was good-great, really." The company gave away turkeys at Thanksgiving and had big picnics in the summer.

Kenneth's son, Todd, joined the family business in 1970, after flying Chinook helicopters in Vietnam. The company continued to expand domestically in the 1970s then internationally in the 1980s with joint ventures in Brazil and France. By the mid-1990s, Tecumseh Products' sales were approaching $2 billion, and the company was earning more than $100 million a year.

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