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How the Corvette Came to be Built in Fiberglass

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Still cheering the Corvette after 60 years

MFG's Morrison speaks to Kiwanis Club

RICHARD MORRISON, chief executive officer of Molded Fiber Glass, addresses the Ashtabula Kiwanis Club on Tuesday at the Ashtabula Arts Center.
RICHARD MORRISON, chief executive officer of Molded Fiber Glass, addresses the Ashtabula Kiwanis Club on Tuesday at the Ashtabula Arts Center. - WARREN DILLAWAY / Star Beacon

by Shelley Terry
The Star Beacon
March 17, 2015
Used here with permission by the author.

ASHTABULA, OHIO — There's one story Richard Morrison likes to tell — how the Corvette changed his family's life.

Morrison, president and CEO of Molded Fiber Glass, was the guest speaker Tuesday at the Ashtabula Kiwanis Club's luncheon at the Ashtabula Arts Center. After giving a brief history of the company and reiterating their commitment to Ashtabula, he couldn't resist telling the story.

In 1953, General Motors unveiled the Corvette. His father, Robert Morrison, traveled to Detroit to convince GM to build all the parts out of fiberglass.

He was discouraged when GM announced it would construct the Corvette out of steel.

Not long after, in the middle of the night, a phone call woke the entire family.

"He assembled everyone in the kitchen where a big bottle of port was on the table," said Morrison, who was 9 at the time and didn't know what to make of the commotion. "He gets these little glasses and fills them with port."

When everyone had a glass for a toast, his father said, "Here's to the Corvette."

The phone call was from Chevy. They had changed their decision from steel to plastic and they chose Molded Fiber Glass, the company his father started in 1948 in Ashtabula, to produce the vehicle's parts. From 1953 to 1970, MFG's main business was making parts for the Corvette and other automotive applications.

Today, MFG is one of the largest employers in Ashtabula, said Kevin Grippi, program chair for the Kiwanis Club. About 35 people attended Tuesday's event.

"This was a unique opportunity to hear Richard Morrison," Grippi said.

Though MFG is best known as the original manufacturer of the iconic Chevrolet Corvette body, Morrison said the company's product line has grown over the years and now includes an array of car and truck components, food trays, wind turbines, fire helmets and more.

MFG maintains a 2,200 member work force at 10 North American locations, with Ashtabula serving as the site of its corporate headquarters.

The company had to resort to layoffs in 2008-09, during the Great Recession, but rebounded in 2014 to experience its most profitable year ever, culminating with MFG being named a General Motors 2014 Supplier of the Year and Morrison one of five men inducted into the 2014 Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent his congratulations to Morrison.

"In Ohio, we are proud of our strong auto industry — and Molded Fiber Glass Companies' success proves that our state's workforce can hold its own against any competitor," Brown said in a press release. "This award is further proof that we should always bet on the American worker and continue investing in American manufacturing jobs. All of Ashtabula should be proud of this hard-earned recognition."