More than 100 years of experience
William T. Spaeder started his business in 1914, working out of his parents home. While he had very little formal education, William was a self-educated, self-made inventor and entrepreneur.
Shortly after launching his company, William's career was interrupted by WWI when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After serving his country, he returned to Erie and continued building his business. In the early 1920s, he purchased a WWI army barracks and used the lumber to build a shop behind his newly built home at 730 East 25th Street.
Among the first employees were William's brothers, Lawrence and Carl. The company continued to prosper until the Great Depression, when most of the construction came to a halt.
Luckily, a new fashion accessory, the zipper, became popular during that time. The Talon Company out of Meadville, Pa., was the first manufacturer of zippers, and Spaeder provided its mechanical work, ensuring the company prospered even during a difficult time.
Challenges and perseverance
Despite the shortage of materials and manpower during WWII, William Spaeder's business stayed the course. By the late 1940s some of his children began working at the business and eventually nine of his 11 children would join the team. With this energetic second generation leading the company, business began to grow and Spaeder began to build a solid reputation as a leader in industrial, institutional and mechanical contracting.
In 1956, the company relocated from the building behind William's home to 448 East 3rd Street. After William passed away in 1963, his nine children with active roles in the company became partners and assumed ownership of the business.
When Dave Spaeder was appointed to president, he led the company on a continued path of growth and expansion, and business operations were relocated in 1966 to Wm. T. Spaeder's current location on East 18th Street.
Initially occupying only a small area of the original building, the company continued to grow and by the late 60s and 70s, Spaeder soon occupied the entire building. Notable projects during this time included the construction of:
- PPG and Carr Hall at Allegheny College in Meadville
- Erie City Hall
- Saint Vincent Hospital Expansion
- Buildings 7 and 12 and the diesel repair building in Grove City for General Electric
In the early 1980s, Spaeder opened a branch office in Jamestown, N.Y. It expanded again in 1994 with the addition of its present fabrication facility. Dave Spaeder retired in 1995, and his son Terry was appointed president. By the late 1990s, the Jamestown location was shut down and all company operations were consolidated to the Erie location.
The company's success has been aided by its ability to embrace technology and adapt to changes over the years. Improved materials and installation techniques bolstered productivity and customer satisfaction, leading to more major projects for the company. Notable projects over the last 30 years include:
- The rebuilding of several paper machines and a waste water treatment plant at Hammermill Paper Company
- Multiple projects for Blair New Process in Irvine and Warren, Pa.
- Major expansions at Saint Vincent Hospital, UPMC Hamot and the VA Medical Centers
- Multiple projects for local colleges and universities
- Renovations at the Erie County Courthouse and the Federal Courthouse Complex in Erie
- The installation of all process piping, plumbing and fire protection at the Lake Erie Biodiesel Fuel Plant
In addition to Terry Spaeder, seven of William's grandchildren currently own the company and four members of the fourth generation are employed there as well. The company has expanded from mainly industrial work to the institutional sector, as well as niche markets that include water and wastewater treatment and multi-unit residential projects.
Looking to the future
From a very humble beginning in 1914, Spaeder has grown to be the regional leader in mechanical contracting. Through three generations of Spaeder family ownership, the company management team has always strived to be hard working, practical and fiscally prudent.
The company's emphasis on building strong relationships with customers, vendors, and bonding and insurance companies has enabled it to maintain success. Spaeder aims to foster this tradition of excellence for years to come. Its dedication to recruiting experienced, loyal employees who exhibit the highest levels of professionalism and craftsmanship will continue to be a central focus of the company as it looks to the future.