Innovation, ingenuity, challenge: Bedford Industries celebrates 50 years

WORTHINGTON -- When Marty Rickers began his job at Bedford Industries, he felt like he knew quite a bit about Bedford as a whole. He knew it was the leader in the twist tie industry. He knew it made -- and invented -- the ElastiTag. He knew it so...

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Roberta Fultz/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - When Marty Rickers began his job at Bedford Industries, he felt like he knew quite a bit about Bedford as a whole. He knew it was the leader in the twist tie industry. He knew it made - and invented - the ElastiTag. He knew it sold products all over the world, and he knew that he would be a part of its sales team.

What he didn’t know was that he’d just made the best move of his life.

“For most of my life I’ve been friends with the Ludlow and Milbrandt families and because of that, before I worked here, I thought I knew a lot about Bedford,” Rickers said. “Turns out I just knew the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge in my later years to sort of relearn and reconfigure everything, but it’s been very, very good for me personally and professionally.”
Always a part of the business world, Rickers made the move to Bedford four and a half years ago.
“I was told when I came here that working at Bedford is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Rickers recalled. “I have definitely found that to be true. There is never a dull moment around here. There is always something brewing.”
This progressive atmosphere has been an inspiring one.
“Everything is constantly changing and moving forward here,” Rickers explained. “Innovative people are that way. They’re in flux all the time. That’s one of the really cool things about Bedford.”
Rickers has served as sales manager at Bedford for the past four years. As such, he has supervised the network of business development managers who live across the United States. He also works with internal sales representatives based here in Worthington. This focus on sales keeps Rickers up to date on new products, new ideas and new ways of bringing those ideas to the marketplace.
“I’m always looking for new avenues to market our wares,” Rickers said. “And every place I go, I look for Bedford products. Ninety-nine percent of the time I find them across the world.”
Bob Ludlow began Bedford Industries 50 years ago by inventing the first process that uses polymers to make the twist tie. Over the years, twist ties have continued to be the chief product of Bedford, making it the largest manufacturer of twist ties in the world.
“The public here in Worthington knows we make twist ties but we do so much more,” began Rickers. “Fifty years ago Bedford started out in the bread business, but now because of the ElastiTag we’re in produce, health and beauty, food, automotive, beverages, hunting and outdoors, coffee, hardware, fragrances, home and housewares - so many different industry niches.
“We go to about 24 trade shows a year, ranging from high-end beverage and cosmetics to produce. What we offer is value-added products. Our ElastiTag products are positionable, and our printing is of extremely high quality. We make our customers’ products look even better.”
When it comes to printing, Bedford is known for sharp, colorful, eye-catching ElastiTag products. The numbers of tags produced at Bedford makes it among the largest printing centers in the upper Midwest.
The ElastiTag line is growing by leaps and bounds. Bedford’s range of products now entails thousands of separate items. The ElastiTag family, created in 2004, consists of a high-quality printed tag combined with an elastomer loop. ElastiTag products continue to be an impressive source of creativity in many different industries.
“We keep moving forward all the time,” Rickers proved, holding out the newest iteration of the ElastiTag line, a detailed and eye-catching Bedford Industries 50th Anniversary laser-cut tag. “This is a Marquee ElastiTag. It’s cut with a laser, which allows us to get a much more intricate design. Lasers can cut angles that a die cut can’t do. The laser means there is no limit to what we can design.”
In addition to laser-cut new products, Bedford is pioneering PolyTwist tie, a wireless twist tie, coveted by the bread industry in part because it means that the metal detectors that check loaves of bread for foreign substances won’t be set off by metal tie.
“Wireless tie is the wave of the future,” Rickers stated. “It tests well with customers. There’s a lot going on in this area at Bedford.”
There is also a lot going on in the current interior redesign of the Bedford building.
“People see the big blue Bedford complex, but they may not know what is going on inside the buildings, such as our new Innovation Center,” Rickers pointed out. “It is going to be phenomenal. We’ll have 40 new offices containing our engineering department, graphics and marketing as well as a research and development ‘playground.’”
Even though Bedford is constantly expanding and growing both nationally and internationally, Bob Ludlow, the founder and CEO, and his son-in-law Kim Milbrandt, the president, are committed to keeping Bedford a family-run business right here in Worthington where it began.
“Bedford is stable and innovative and professionally run,” Rickers said. “There is a really good succession plan in place. The company is now setting up for the third generation, Jay Milbrandt, to continue moving the company forward. It’s a neat thing to know that Bedford will be here into the future as a family-owned business.
“All of the employees are very collaborative in nature, which is rarely seen in an organization of this size,” Rickers continued. “The bigger you are, the harder it is to maintain a collaborative environment. It is their desire to be in a position to attract the best of the best in sales, production, IT, engineering, graphics, accounting - in every area - so that they can remain at the top in packaging innovation.”
A 50th anniversary celebration is planned for Bedford this summer. Rickers is proud to be even a small part of those 50 groundbreaking years.

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