Updated: Aug 15
Manhole Covers Brought to You by The EJ Group Inc
I remember for many years walking over or near manhole covers and taking them for granted. They always had a good deal of writing on them, but never once did I think to look at where they were made. It took me many years to become interested enough to discover where these covers came from. The surprise came when I realized they originated in my home state of Michigan, in a small town called East Jordan. With an estimated population of fewer than 2300 people, it is the smallest town in Charlevoix County.
Not to digress, but I have had the pleasure of visiting East Jordan and tubing down the Jordan River. Though the city is tiny, its location is superb and is demonstrated by its motto, “Where River, Lake, and People Meet.” If you are ever inclined to visit, we stayed at a charming Airbnb, which adjoined Guenther’s General Store.
The Company History can be obtained directly from the EJ website, but the general story began in 1883. William E. Malpass and his father-in-law Richard W. Round established a foundry in the small town of East Jordan located on the bottom west arm of Lake Charlevoix. It was first named the Round & Malpass Foundry, but it was renamed the East Jordan Iron Works three years later.
This foundry originally produced cast parts for the railroads, ships, farming, and lumber industries. Lumber was a big industry in the early days, with White Pine lumber being shipped all over the United States. The 1920s arrived, and with it came the Great Depression. The need for lumber dwindled, and the company sought out other markets to continue to grow the business. The company's new core products became fire hydrants, water valves, and street castings.
The company became a major contributor to World War II in the form of castings. The ’50s saw automation being introduced to the plants for the first time, and there was no looking back. Still, a family-owned business, the fifth generation of the Malpass family continues to steer this company into the 21st century through expansion by acquisition. They are now a global enterprise that spans five continents, including sales offices, manufacturing facilities, distribution hubs, and multiple research and development centers.
In 2012 East Jordan Iron Works and its other entities united under one global brand as EJ Group Inc. Uniting all of the business helped promote a more “global” aspect to the company. The rebrand was to clarify that East Jordan was located domestically and not in Jordan (Saudi Arabia). I can understand the confusion.
EJ Group Inc has started to see an influx from the 6th generation of the Malpass family, securing the family-owned legacy for many years to come.
While the Water Products are still being produced in a 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility in East Jordan, the original iron foundry was rebuilt and relocated in 2018. Now known as the Greenfield foundry, it is located on a 200-acre site with 7.5 acres under roof. The Greenfield location is located 14 miles away from East Jordan in Warner Township.