Three leaders of the Owensboro business community — past and present — were inducted into the Owensboro Business Hall of Fame at Tuesday’s Junior Achievement luncheon at the Owensboro Convention Center.
The late John Geoffrey “Pete” Barnard, founder of Modern Welding Co.; Michael E. Horn of Horn Industrial Companies and Chris C. Reid, chairman and CEO of Independence Bank, were hailed as “three champions” of Owensboro by Malcolm Bryant, one of last year’s inductees.
The event drew a crowd of 400 — nearly double the 240 who attended last year’s ceremony.
There is still no permanent location for the Business Hall of Fame.
But Dan Douglas, president of Junior Achievement of West Kentucky, said he thinks an announcement will be made soon.
• Barnard was represented by his grandson, Jim Jones, who is currently president of Modern Welding.
Barnard, an Ohio County native, was a motorcycle mechanic in World War I.
He began his career as a welder in Central City and then moved to Alton, Illinois, before becoming superintendent of pipe fabrication for a Gary, Indiana, steel mill.
In June 1932, he and his wife came home to visit family.
While the women visited the department stores downtown, Barnard stepped into a small welding shop on the northwest corner of Second and Frederica streets.
The owner was wanting to move to Florida. And Barnard was wanting to come home.
That was in the depths of the Great Depression.
And some told him he was crazy to quit a good job and buy a welding shop.
But by the time Barnard died on Jan. 18, 1982, at age 83, the company that began as a one-man operation had become a $70 million corporation with 750 employees in seven states.
Jones said his grandfather used bonuses each year to keep his employees happy and tried to hire people smarter than himself.
He said the company still does both of those things today.
• Horn, whose companies employed 1,700 people across the country at their peak, grew up on a Whitesville farm.
In 1978, he created National Steel Erection Inc.
He went on to create Titan Contracting and Leasing Co. Inc., Titan Fabrication, Inco Services, Milco Constructors, M Industrial Mechanical and Midwest Consulting.
The companies worked in all 50 states.
In 2007, he created the Michael E. Horn Family Foundation, which supports causes and projects in the area.
The Foundation has awarded more than $50,000 to Daviess County students and more than $280,000 to a variety of projects in the area.
“I’ve had a lot of mentors in my life,” Horn told the crowd and thanked those people for helping him get started.
He said several of his managers have gone on to create successful companies of their own.
Horn said JA is a great resource for students because “It’s never too early to plan to be an entrepreneur.”
• Reid has spent more than 40 years in banking with what’s now Independence Bank.
His father, Charles A. Reid, and uncle, Maurice E. Reisz, bought two small banks — Farmers and Merchants Bank of McLean County and Providence State Bank of Webster County — in 1971.
They were merged to form Independence Bank in 1997.
In 1974, Reid told the crowd, he began his career with the bank as groundskeeper and janitor.
When Reid’s father died in 2001, he became president of the family-owned bank, serving in that capacity until last year when the mantle passed to his son, Jacob Reid.
During Reid’s years at the helm the bank, it grew to 25 locations from Lexington to Paducah with assets of $2.5 billion.
It has 400 employees today.
The bank is the largest agricultural lender in the state today, he said.
Now, that his children are running the family business, Reid said, “I’m very excited about our future.”
In 1997, the inaugural class of the Hall of Fame was William M. Elmer, former president of Texas Gas Transmission Corp.; Roy Burlew, founder of Ken-Rad, a company that was sold later to General Electric Corp. and later became MPD Inc.; and Charles E. Field, founder of Field Packing Co., now SFG.
In 1998, attorney Morton Holbrook, home builder William Thompson and newspaper publisher Lawrence Hager were added.
And in 2000, the final year until 2018, Carol Martin “Bill” Gatton, whose career includes banking and auto sales; L. Berkley Davis Sr., former head of General Electric in Owensboro and William Taylor Stevenson, former president of Texas Gas were included.
The program went dormant until 2018, when Malcolm Bryant, CEO of the Malcolm Bryant Corp., and Terry Woodward, owner of WaxWorks/VideoWorks, were inducted.
Douglas said inductees were chosen by a local selection committee based on lifetime achievement, business excellence, entrepreneurial spirit, courageous thinking and action, inspiring leadership, community impact and service as a role model.
The luncheon induction ceremony benefited JA, which Douglas said served a record 21,240 area students — including 10,197 in Daviess County — last year.
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 firstname.lastname@example.org