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Aug. 26, 2020
Being 100% employee-owned rewards employees and provides security for the custom supplier of furnaces for forging and other thermal processes.

Industrial furnace builder Onex Inc. is fully employee-owned following the establishment of a new Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) on August 21. The Erie, PA, business custom-designs furnaces for heat-intensive industries — including forging — and offers turnkey service to upgrade, retrofit, and replace furnaces.

It also offer castable refractory materials and precast shapes for furnaces, molds, and tools.

“We knew an ESOP was the right direction for Onex’s future," according to president Ashleigh Walters and vice president Drew Walters. "Being 100% employee-owned rewards our hard-working employees, excites our clients, keeps the business headquartered in Erie, ensures we have the same strong management team and leverages the benefits of tax-free status. When we considered all these positives, it made sense to make this transition now. We’re all very excited about this brand new chapter in the Onex story.”

An ESOP is an employee benefit plan that entitles employees to acquire equity shares in the company. It's frequently adopted as a corporate-financing strategy that aligns the interests of employees and stakeholders.

Onex did not announced the capitalization or other details of its ESOP structure. The company's management team will remain in place through the ownership change.

The Walters acquired Onex in 2018 from Ric Walters, Drew’s father, but settled on an ESOP strategy more recently as the best succession plan for their family-owned business.

“We would love if our boys wanted to work at Onex but we didn’t want that to be our succession plan," Mrs. Walters said. "We also did not want to wait to address business succession. Onex has some great opportunities for growth right now.”

According to Kevin McPhillips, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center of Employee Ownership, “What Ashleigh and Drew have done is extraordinary. They have positively changed the lives of their employees and all of their families forever.”

“When Drew and I became owners of Onex in 2018, we saw an opportunity to make a difference in our community and support our fellow manufacturers," according to Ashleigh Walters. "Our goal has always been to revitalize American manufacturing. In particular, inspire more people to pursue manufacturing careers and help rebuild Erie’s economy from the inside out. With this ESOP, our families, our community, and Onex are stronger and ready for a bright future.”