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Kwik-Way Industries, Inc., began as the Cedar Rapids Engineering Company in 1920, providing a product sorely needed by the fledgling automobile and truck industry—a reliable, standardized way to reface engine valves. Until the Kwik-Way valve refacing machine was marketed, that process was performed, with difficulty, by hand. Charles C. Hahn, founder of the company, was a former blacksmith's apprentice who appreciated automobiles and wanted to solve some of their engine problems, such as valves warped by heat and wear. He queried machine tool makers around the country who not only lacked a lathe "chuck" to fit his needs but flatly told Hahn that such a tool couldn't be built.
Hahn persevered, however, and with R.H. Meister, an experienced machinist, founded Cedar Rapids Engineering Company. The partners hired a creative mechanical engineer, A.I. Dunn, and between them, the trio designed the chuck needed to reface engine valves. The device worked and the Kwik-Way valve facing machine was born.
The firm's first modest office and shop was located at 902 Seven teenth Street Northeast in Cedar Rapids, and measured only 20 by 20 feet. However, the new product caught on fast throughout the United States and the business grew. The company's first salesman was I.R. Goodwin, an energetic young man who made his money the hard way—covering the dusty roads of Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and northwestern Iowa by automobile, peddling his wares primarily to garages.
During World War II, Cedar Rapids Engineering Company put its close-tolerance machining skills to work grinding radio crystals for the Allied defense effort. As the company continued to expand, an eye was cast toward foreign markets. Although some sales had been made overseas almost by accident, it wasn't until 1962 that Kwik-Way machines were marketed abroad directly by Cedar Rapids Engineering Company. That year, overseas sales totaled $68,000; today, that annual figure amounts to several million dollars.
After Charles Hahn's death in the 1940s, control of the enterprise was assumed, first by his partner, R.H. Meister, and then by Hahn's two sons, F. Critz and H. Cedric. In 1968, Cedar Rapids Engineering Company was merged into the newly formed Kwik-Way Industries, Inc., headed by Thomas A. Parks and a new professional management team. The company acquired a Canadian firm in 1969, now called Kwik - Way Manufacturing of Canada, Ltd. In late 1973, Material Products Company, a steel fabricating firm, and Line-O-Tronics, Inc., maker of auto front-end alignment tools and wheel balancers, were acquired. Today Kwik-Way manufactures the automotive industry's most complete line of repair machinery.
A large industrial facility was built and occupied at 500 Fifty-seventh Street, Marion, in 1976. In 1 9 8 0 , the company employs approximately 300 people through its Marion facility, 140 at Rock Island, Illinois, and 50 at its facility at Toronto, Canada.
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