By MORGAN MANNS
Joe Hinrichs graduated from St. Wendelin Catholic High School in 1985 with aspirations to work as an engineer for the Ford Motor Company.
Now the executive vice president and president of global operations for Ford, he had the opportunity to return to his hometown while recognizing 50 years of partnership between Ford and Reineke Family Dealership.
Nearly 100 people were packed into the Reineke Ford Dealership lobby Friday morning in celebration of the golden anniversary, at which Hinrichs was the guest speaker.
“I get an opportunity to speak at a lot of events but I’ve never been emotional at them,” he said, wiping his eyes. “Coming home is special. Fostoria is such an important part of my history — I’ve seen a lot of great people who did nice things for me and it brings back memories.”
As the executive vice president and president of global operations at Ford, Hinrichs is responsible for overseeing Ford’s global product development; manufacturing and labor affairs; quality; purchasing; sustainability; and environmental and safety engineering.
He began his career with Ford in December of 2000. He previously held positions of executive vice president and president, The Americas; group vice president and president of Asia Pacific and Africa; group vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs; vice president, North America Manufacturing; president and CEO of Fort Motor Company in Canada, Limited; director of manufacturing, Vehicle Operations; executive director of the company’s Material Planning and Logistics organization; and plant manager of the Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
Hinrichs said he attributes his successful career — as well as his other accomplishments — to the experiences he had growing up in Fostoria and attending St. Wendelin Catholic Schools.
“I think that upbringing and grounding is very important to our values and who we are,” he said. “It grounds you in the community. I’m very proud of the education I received at St. Wendelin. I’m sad to see the high school close but the memory lives on and certainly the church lives on.”
Throughout his speech Friday, he recalled various memories he has of his time in Fostoria and at St. Wendelin, recognizing the relationship the Reineke family has throughout the community.
“One of the highlights of growing up in Fostoria was the parish festival. And the highlight of the festival, back in that time frame, would be raffling off a vehicle from Reineke Ford,” he said. “That’s a symbol of the connection places like Reineke Ford have to communities like Fostoria. When you think about community dealerships, that’s the backbone of Ford Motor Company; they make the fabric of our community.”
Seven years before being welcomed into the Ford family, Bill Reineke Sr. moved his young family from Toledo to Fostoria in 1960 so he could fulfill his dream of owning a car dealership — a Buick-Oldsmobile franchise located at 130 E. Tiffin St.
In September of 1967, he acquired the Ford franchise from Willis B. Hakes.
Now, 50 years later, the companies came together in celebration of their long partnership, inviting various city and state officials as well as community members to join in the merriment.
“For those of you who don’t know, Bill Reineke Sr. is one of the founding members of the Fostoria Economic Development Corporation and their family involvement continues today,” Renee Smith, FEDC executive director, said during Friday’s ceremony. “They are a wonderful community-oriented family and we should all be so proud to have their business right here in Fostoria.”
“Reineke has been a chamber member for more than 50 years and continues to be an active supporter of the Fostoria business community and the community as a whole,” Sarah Stephens-Krupp, chamber/small business director, added. “We are so proud and honored that Bill Reineke Sr. chose Fostoria as the place to begin his legacy of family dealerships.”
Reineke opened the current dealership on Perrysburg Road on Jan. 15, 1972.
In addition to Fostoria’s location, Reineke Family Dealerships operates in Tiffin, Findlay, Lima, Upper Sandusky and North Baltimore.
The family owned organization sells Ford, Lincoln, Nissan, Honda, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM vehicles and employs approximately 450 full- and part-time employees.
Several of those employees were recognized Friday morning during the celebration for their multiple years of service. Employees could be easily identified as they were wearing a red flower.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company employees were wearing a white flower and Reineke family members were wearing a yellow flower.
Several Reineke family members — including all 10 of Reineke Sr.’s children as well as in-laws, cousins and other relatives — also made an appearance at the event.
The Reineke dealership legacy continues through many of these family members who now work for the company. One of his sons, Tom Reineke, serves as company president.
Also in attendance were David Zak, Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corporation; Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz; state senators Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) and Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green); Representative Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green); and Brian Bauman, representing Congressman Bob Latta.
Every state official presented the Reineke family with a token of congratulations.
Additionally, Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler presented the family with a proclamation, stating the impact the dealership and the family have had on the Fostoria community as well as expressing a deep gratitude.
“It’s a family business that’s continuing throughout this next generation so we know it’s in good hands,” he said. “We appreciate the service the family performs in Fostoria and we look forward, with all of these new family members, for a lot more years to come.”
Great Lakes Market Area General Manager Fritz Ahadi presented Reineke Family Dealerships with a 50th anniversary plaque as well as a pin that reads “50th” with two diamonds in it, each signifying 25 years.
“We have tremendous respect for the business that you have built over the last 50 years, starting here in Fostoria,” he said. “We have a great partnership with Reineke and we are thankful for your loyalty. It’s a privilege working together with all of you.”
A customer open house also took place Friday and will continue from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Cake and cookies will be served and there will be giveaways and chances for those in attendance to win a slew of other prizes.
While at the store, community members will also have the opportunity to win Reineke’s 50th Anniversary Prize Package by guessing the number of balloons stuffed in a vehicle on the showroom floor.
“It’s a small town sense of community and support for each other,” Hinrichs said. “Everyone is one bigger family in Fostoria where people like the Reineke’s step up to be leaders and help each other out. The Reineke connection with Ford is great and we’ll still have a connection here hopefully for more than 50 more years.”