National Presto Industries of Eau Claire received the “Futuremakers Partner Award” from the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) Board at its quarterly meeting, hosted by Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire Tuesday, March 19.
Mark Tyler, president of the WTCS Board, presented the award to Maryjo Cohen, president and CEO of the company.
“People throughout the Chippewa Valley are well aware of National Presto Industries and the role it has played in building the future of the Valley,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “Through a long tradition of product innovation and a keen eye for opportunities in business, the company has been a major player in the local economy back to its earliest days more than a century ago. National Presto is a model of consistency and stability that continues to benefit the area, and the entire state, in a variety of ways.”
The history of National Presto (NPI) dates back to 1905, when the company manufactured industrial-sized pressure canners that became an industry standard. In 1942, Lewis E. Phillips, with his brother Jay, secured a controlling interest in the company through the purchase of the stock owned by the E.R. Hamilton estate. The leadership of the company has since been handed down from L.E. Phillips to his son-in-law Melvin S. Cohen, and now to Maryjo Cohen, the third generation.
Early on the company began a pattern of innovation in response to market needs. As a result, many of the small appliances that became mainstays of the American family’s kitchen were developed by the company.
Smaller pressure cookers for home use became one of the company’s signature products. The first electric steam iron using tap water, the first submersible electric fry pans, the first automatic submersible stainless steel electric coffee pot, all came from National Presto. Innovations in hamburger cookers, popcorn makers, deep fryers, slicers/shredders and pizza ovens followed – all in response to market needs. That’s a pattern of success that technical colleges try to emulate.
The company has also played a very strong and honorable role in national defense, dating back to WWII. Military supplies manufactured by Presto have helped America’s armed forces defend our freedom and the freedom of others.
One of the company’s latest ventures is the formation of Presto Absorbent Products (PAPI) in 2001 that involved purchase of a struggling baby diaper manufacturer in Eau Claire followed by an adult incontinence product facility in Georgia. Those operations have now been consolidated in Eau Claire, adding to Presto’s long history of creating jobs in the area.
“The company has maintained a close relationship with CVTC throughout its history, hiring CVTC graduates and supporting the College philanthropically through its charitable arm, the Presto Foundation. That foundation has provided funds for building projects, equipment purchases and student scholarships,” said Barker.
“We are honored to receive the Futuremaker Partner award,” Cohen stated. “In accepting this award, I’d like to acknowledge the real Presto future makers, who are the employees of our company, many of whom are CVTC graduates. In fact, over 20 percent of both the current NPI and PAPI office and maintenance staffs have CVTC degrees. For NPI, employee tenures range from one month to over 40 years, with an average of 21 years; for PAPI, a newer company, the tenures range from six months to nine years or an average of three years. These employees are our past, present and future.”