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October 25, 2014 - Mechanical Devices still family owned, going strong after 100 years


Siblings (left to right) Linda Fillingham, Mark Sperry and Carol Kant are third-generation operators of Mechanical Devices in Bloomington. (Photo by Eric Stock/WJBC)

By Eric Stock, WJBC

BLOOMINGTON – Not many family owned businesses that were around 100 years ago are still in business today, but a Bloomington manufacturer is still going strong – and is still family owned and operated.

Mechanical Devices at 2005 G.E. Road has grown to 300 employees.

“We’ve been told we make something on everything Caterpillar owns,” said office manager Linda Fillingham said. She and her two siblings are third-generation operators and they each have children who have stayed in the family business working from the ground up.

“They mowed, they pulled weeds,” FIllingham said. “It was a good training ground to teach our children what good work ethics are.”

Chief sales officer Mark Sperry, Linda’s brother, said their children require a whole new level of training.

“When we came up in the business, the business was 30, 40, 50 people,” Sperry said. “Today we are 300-plus people, so they are going to learn in a different environment.”

Frank Earl Sperry created Mechanical Devices in Aurora in 1914.  The company moved to Bloomington in 1926 and into a facility at Oakland and Bunn streets in 1928. The company relocated to its current 250,000 square foot home in 1988.

CEO Carol Kant, Linda’s sister, said all of the company’s employees are like family.

“It’s not the big picture, it’s the little things you do. Maybe you show up at their visitation or you give them some food or you give them a certificate for somewhere.”

Fillingham warned it’s now always smooth sailing working with siblings, but they see value in their differences.

“Carol is a peacemaker. Mark will go one way and I go the other way and we are still trying to get to the same spot. but we don’t agree,” Fillingham said. “I think that’s been the success of what’s been working, because we are so different.”

Fillingham added one challenge the company has is finding enough skilled laborers in a mostly white-collar town.

Eric Stock can be reached at eric.stock@cumulus.com.

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