Thern Celebrates 70 Years of Lifting

by Stage Directions

In 2018, Thern, Inc. is celebrating its 70th Anniversary and recently hosted an event at their facility in Winona, MN to celebrate the occasion. Thern is a manufacturer of industrial-quality hand winches, power winches, and cranes. At the celebration, the company took time to reflect on its humble beginnings, the many accomplishments achieved through seven decades of operation, and how its employees shaped its success. Here's a video on some of Thern's history:

Thern's Beginnings
In 1948 Royal G. Thern founded Thern Machine Co. and set up shop in a 20-foot x 40-foot cement block building on 4th Avenue in Goodview, MN. Roy was a 1934 graduate of the University of Wisconsin in mechanical engineering and had served in the Air Force during WWII. Roy applied his engineering skill to designing and manufacturing a variety of products for agricultural and industrial uses. Some of Thern's early products included a corn sheller, a lever operated chain hoist, a general-purpose hand winch and a cordwood saw frame. One of the most successful early products was their differential chain hoist.

Throughout the 1950's and 60's, Roy sold most of his products through the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs. These sales provided a strong base income for the fledgling company, which allowed Roy to research and develop numerous additional products. It was during the late 50's and early 60's that Thern designed and developed many of the hand winches, power winches, and cranes, which became the core of the business for the next 30 years. During this time Thern saw more and more business from industrial customers, where their products were used in plant operations and OEM applications.

Sales through Sears and Wards remained a large component of the business until the late 70's, when liability concerns and foreign competition drove Thern out of these catalogs.

The 70's and 80's
Roy's son-in-law, Fred A. Morgan, joined the Thern sales force in 1977, at a critical time for the company. Industrial sales were slow and with the loss of Sears and Wards customers, plus competitive products coming out of Asia, Thern faced a gloomy future.

Fred was instrumental in developing a sales approach that responded to customers' unique application requirements. With Fred's guidance, Thern quickly developed a reputation for made to order custom products. This opened up new markets to Thern and the company saw a dramatic increase in large power winch sales, accompanied by an increased need for technically skilled employees.

Custom sales carried the company well into the 80's, when tough economic times and strong competition forced Thern to restructure itself. Fred again pioneered a new marketing approach by actively seeking out niche markets and tailoring Thern's products to meet their needs. These efforts resulted in a line of portable davit cranes for the wastewater industry, large electric winches for rail car and barge pulling, and a highly popular series of portable power winches.

The 90's and 2000's
In January 1991, Royal Thern passed away and left Thern, Inc. in the capable hands of Fred Morgan. In 2000, Fred's son Tedd Morgan joined Thern's Marketing Department and in 2013 was promoted to President/CEO. While Fred stepped aside as CEO, he continues to remain active in the business, both as member of the board of directors as well as assisting from time to time with sales opportunities outside of the United States.

Thern continued to develop products for niche markets, while at the same time reengineering many of the products, which the company had been manufacturing since the early 1960's. In 2002, Thern introduced a line of winches and hoists designed for use in the theater industry. Since then, Thern has developed a complete line of theater rigging products and has grown from being a bit player to become a significant supplier of rigging products in the entertainment industry.

In 2013, Thern acquired LVH Entertainment Systems in California as an installer for Thern's line of theater rigging equipment as well as lighting and electrical products. This acquisition allowed Thern's engineers to gain firsthand knowledge about the installation and use of the theater products and make many useful upgrades and extensions to the product line.

The ability to change and adapt to shifting market demands and competition has allowed Thern to thrive both at home and abroad, expanding its customer base from its humble beginnings to making regular shipments to customers in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Throughout the years, one thing remains a constant... Thern's dedication to meeting the needs of their customers. As Thern begins its next decade of operation, the focus will be on continuing to expand its portfolio of innovative products which allow their customers to lift, pull, and position loads with ease. Thern will also continue to invest in Winona, the community it has called home for 70 years with new equipment to support manufacturing and additional employees to satisfy growing demand for its products. Thern is in a strong position for growth and looks forward to another 70 years of serving customers with high quality material handling products.

Today, Thern employs more than 110 people, and sells a broad line of standard and custom products across the globe from their corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Winona, Minnesota and from their European office and warehouse in the Netherlands.

Further information from Thern:

About Thern
Thern, Inc. is a family-owned winch and crane manufacturer based in the Midwest. With a history spanning over 70 years, this little Midwest company has provided amazing solutions to some very BIG projects all over the world. From building the winch that lowers the Time's Square Ball every New Year's Eve, Thern products also played a part in the One World Trade Center; the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge; the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Pad; the world's largest solar array project Ivanpah, located in the Mojave Desert; the world's first stadium reduction system at BC Place in Vancouver; and the world's largest Ferris wheel, the High Roller in Las Vegas, NV.  

Thern celebrates 70 years in business