In addition to providing gifts in celebration of its 75th anniversary this year, Ohio Machinery Co. is giving its employees and their families an opportunity: the possibility of a college scholarship. "For quite some time, I have desired to create a program to help families fund post-secondary education," says Ken Taylor, president and third-generation owner.
Not only does Taylor understand using incentives to attract quality employees in a competitive labor market, but he also believes in recognizing the hard work his dedicated employees perform. "I have been searching for a strategy to combine my objective regarding post-secondary education with employee rewards and recognition that accomplishes all of these goals together."
In September 2020, he achieved that long-sought-after goal by establishing the Ohio Machinery Education and Opportunity Foundation Scholarship Program to provide scholarship funds to Ohio Machinery Co. employees' spouses and children.
Brief Company history
Initially launched in Columbus, Ohio Machinery Co. represented Caterpillar across most of Ohio. Post-war infrastructure construction led to rapid company growth and a move to Cleveland.
Doing business today as Ohio Cat, with its headquarters in Broadview Heights, the company is the exclusive authorized dealer for Caterpillar in Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana. It has expanded to four divisions – Equipment, Power Systems, Ag and Growth Opportunities – in 34 locations, with 1,550 employees. The company is also a Peterbilt truck dealer doing business as Ohio Peterbilt and both an AGCO and a CLAAS dealer doing business as Ohio Ag Equipment. Additional offerings include rental equipment, repair and remanufacture of hydraulic and diesel engine components, and online support for equipment and parts sales.
When Ken took the helm 26 years ago, he wanted to find a unique way to support the "driven, dependable and passionate employees who are the foundation upon which our company is built." Two years ago, he saw a chance to do so.
"In 2018, I seized on an opportunity which arose from the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to establish a scholarship-oriented foundation, the Ohio Machinery Education and Opportunity Foundation or OMEOF, and to partner with an organization that can support employees and their families with financial assistance to propel their post-secondary education aspirations forward," Taylor reflects.
That organization, College Now Greater Cleveland, acts as a third-party program administrator. Their mission is "to increase post-secondary educational attainment through college and career access advising, financial aid counseling, scholarships and retention services." College Now helps students achieve their dreams of attending certificate, two-year and four-year degree programs.
As part of its duties, College Now randomly selects scholarship winners who meet specific eligibility requirements. Eligible applicants for an OMEOF scholarship must be a spouse, child or stepchild (up to 30 years old) of a full-time Ohio Machinery Co. employee who has at least one year of service.
Students who are eligible and submit a completed application are entered into a pool. According to IRS guidelines, 25% of the total number of applicants may then be selected at random to receive a scholarship. Those who do not receive a scholarship may try again the following school year.
Scholarship winners are awarded $2,500 per semester or $5,000 per academic school year. As long as the student maintains a 2.5 cumulative GPA, the scholarship can be renewed for the lesser of three additional consecutive years or until the student completes his or her certificate or degree program.
The scholarships cover tuition, books and fees, and can be used for any full-time or part-time college or trade school course of study in an accredited certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's or doctoral program.
With the first application deadline having recently occurred in October, it is unknown how many scholarships will be awarded for the first semester of 2021, although Taylor anticipates approximately 35, for a total of $175,000. "The most important thing to understand is that the more applications we receive, the more scholarships we can award," he points out.
There's already been one winner: Taylor himself. From the concept of using funds from corporate tax savings to learning and navigating regulations as he set up the foundation, Taylor used the opportunity he created to partner in an important and unique manner with his employees and their families.
"I truly am grateful for the opportunity which presented itself, and I am thrilled to be giving back to my employees who work so passionately, day in and day out, for Ohio Machinery Co. and our customers. In the years to come, the Ohio Machinery Education and Opportunity Foundation Scholarship Program will become an integral part of our company culture, and the ranks of OMEOF scholarship winners will grow into the hundreds and eventually more."