Tagmaster: Last Plant Standing

Just behind the U.S. Post Office on Main Street lies Tagmaster, the only remaining manufacturing business still residing in Evanston. (Current zoning laws prevents the construction of new factories.)  I recently attended a factory tour and was amazed by what was taking place in my (virtual) backyard.

The family owned business, founded in 1949, is a leader in the promotional products industry and sells to distributors, not the general public. With more than 500 products in inventory and over 200 regular and seasonal employees, Tagmaster can add a company logo and tagline to almost anything: pens, notebooks, bags, water bottles and more.

The factory is bright and very clean, and many of the employees are cross-trained to increase efficiencies and prevent bottlenecks.  Most of the workforce has the kind of long tenure one never hears about anymore—10 years, 20 years, 35 years and more. It’s a union shop with a family vibe; the current president, Cary Shevin, is the son of the founder and still active in the business.

Product safety is a big concern in the industry, and one Tagmaster takes very seriously, especially since many of the products available for sale are imported from overseas.  Each manufacturer of origin is monitored, products are evaluated constantly and quality control standards are stringent.  To assist in this effort, Tagmaster invested in a portable XOS Materials Analysis machine. The whole thing is about the size of a carry-on suitcase, but it opens up to reveal a platform (second photo). The item being evaluated—I subjected my business card holder for analysis—is placed directly on the platform. In less than five minutes after the door closed, an outside screen (third photo) lights up with detailed measurements of every chemical element in the object. I found out my metal business card holder consists primarily of copper, but also contains chromium, the element highlighted in red. In the U.S., chromium is prohibited in products marketed to children.

Tagmaster is a vibrant neighbor along the Main Street corridor. It’s responding proactively to rapid economic and technological changes and seems to be thriving. Here’s to another 65 years!

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