Walker Process - 1945 - 2005
The story of Walker Process begins when American Well Works was sold in 1945. Don Walker, the Chief Engineer, Frank Voris, and four engineers, Doug Drier, Chet Obma, Al Nelson, and John Sperry decided to leave American Well Works and founded Walker Process with Don Walker as President and Frank Voris as Secretary-Treasurer in 1946.
The new company decided not to manufacture pumps. Instead they would specialize in the design and installation of engineered water and waste water systems for municipalities. Their first operation was on Hankes Avenue. In 1952, they built the present facility on Russell Avenue on the West Side.
In 1960, the company designed and marketed an engineered complete treatment plant in a package. It consisted of a round tank inside a larger round tank. This product was highly successful and brought the need for new financing. The primary supplier of the steel tanks was Chicago Bridge and Iron, which built a close relationship with Walker. As none of Walker children had an interest in the business, the decision was made in 1965 to sell to Chicago Bridge. Don Walker stayed as President until age 65 and then remained on as a consultant. Frank Voris left to join Merchants Bank, where he later became Chairman. Lew Troglia of CBI became President.
In the late 1970’s, the EPA funded construction grants to municipalities and villages and unincorporated developments to install sewage treatment plants. Like many government incentive programs, new funding was raised. Many new and inexperienced companies entered the business. This created a very crowded market and a severe drop in profitability. CBI allowed independent operations at Walker.
However, lower results brought more attention and the hiring of Ken O’Dell as President. Finally, in 1989, the decision was made to sell the business. Jim McNish, the owner of Amwell, ECI Corp. and National Hydro, had expressed interest in Walker in the early 1980’s and finally reached agreement to purchase Walker. Jim continues to own and operate Amwell and Walker Process in Aurora.
Aurora Beacon News, Dave Hipp