The Act of Service that Changed Our Family’s Course
Dallas Steiner, Venture Products, Inc.
May 13, 2019
Our Evergreen company, Venture Products, has manufactured tractors and attachments in Orville, Ohio since 1998. But my family has had a much longer history in making tractors and other equipment from metal.
In 1922, my grandparents, John R. and Eliza Steiner, sponsored a Russian refugee, Henry Penner, to travel to Ohio from what is now southern Ukraine. They provided him with employment and housing so that he could become an American citizen.
Shortly after Henry’s arrival to the family farm, my grandparents learned that his passion was not for tilling fields, but, rather, for working with metal. To fuel his interest and continue to help him build a life and sustainable employment, my grandfather purchased tools and materials to set up a blacksmith shop. The forge, anvil, horseshoes, and other tools arrived via train to our local railroad station, and my family brought them home in a wagon.
Henry worked in that blacksmith shop for a year before moving to a neighboring town and opening an autobody shop, but metalwork continued to play a central role in the life of our family. My father, especially, was drawn to inventing and building with steel, and he merged his creativity and skill with entrepreneurial spirit to develop new farming equipment and processes. My six brothers and I learned the art of welding at the same time we were learning our ABCs, and we were encouraged to innovate and build throughout our lives.
As strong and essential as the foundation of metalwork in our family was a commitment to serving others. That decision to sponsor Henry Penner was one example of many acts of generosity and service in my grandparents’ and my parents’ lives. This commitment to helping others was deeply ingrained in our upbringing. My parents modeled this orientation continually; from opening our home daily to friends and strangers, to traveling nationally and internationally with us boys to help others in the wake of natural disasters and to serve ongoing needs in underserved communities. Service is part of our DNA, and it has also been a building block of our company.
In 1975, the year I graduated from high school, my brothers and I launched Steiner Corporation.In 14 years, the company grew into three divisions: turf equipment, agricultural equipment, and a community repair shop.Two of those divisions were sold in 1988.The Steiner Tractor line was sold to Ransomes, a British manufacturer of turf equipment. By 1996, the family’s vision and goals started to change, prompting the renaming of the company from Steiner Ag Products to Venture Products, Inc. Some of the first new products designed were focused on disability products for wheelchair users to simplify accessibility for transport. In 1988, we recommitted our focus on the next generation of all-wheel drive compact tractors, giving birth to the VENTRAC brand, "Your One Tractor Solution,” with over 40 attachments.
As we continue to build from the transformative and long-lasting legacy of steel and metalwork that has brought our family and our company to this point, we are equally aware of the parallel legacy of service and generosity as a core value of our company. We have developed a Heritage Principle to articulate this value: “At the end of the day, let this day be better because you were in it.”
In 2018, in celebration of Venture Products’ twentieth anniversary, we honored the legacy of service inspired by our grandparents’ sponsorship of Henry Penner when we built a tractor for YWAM, a youth ministry in Kiev, Ukraine. The organization operates on an eight-acre campus, and the tractor has become invaluable in the staff’s ability to manage snow, lawncare, and other property maintenance.
Though we participate in service projects throughout the year in our local area, this gift to an organization in the Ukraine was especially meaningful, given Henry Penner’s contribution to our family all those years ago. Perhaps most rewarding in considering the impact of this service project, was to see all of our employees embrace the effort. To see that thread of generosity and enthusiasm toward serving others stitch the company together was remarkable.
Whether through future projects in the Ukraine or in our backyard, I know that we will continue to engage in meaningful service work as a company. Not because it’s an annual company objective or a box to check, but because my family feels a deep responsibility to be of service. We wouldn’t be where we are today if not for the generosity of my grandparents and the ongoing work of my parents. Now, it’s our turn to continue to help our neighbors, in our own company, in our hometown, and in much more distant locales.
Dallas Steiner is CEO and COB of Venture Products, Inc.