Oak Creek WI-based NeoBrake Systems, an independent North American brake remanufacturer and formulator of asbestos-free brakes, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in business.
Rick Ballew, owner, president and CEO—and Michigan native—started the company in October 1988, right around the same time baseball Hall of Famer Kirk Gibson was playing hero for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
“It was an incredible time,” Ballew recalled. “We had just gotten things off the ground, then Kirk Gibson hits this home run when he can barely walk. I took it as a good sign, though, since we’re both from Michigan.”
Ballew managed a reman shop for United Brake Systems after arriving in Milwaukee WI in 1980. He went on to open facilities in Grand Rapids, St. Paul and Fargo, and was on the frontlines rebuilding brakes when asbestos use was discontinued in 1982, prompting him to look for equally effective solutions.
“I saw brake material go from consisting of three basic components to over eight with non-asbestos formulas,” Ballew said. “No one has been able to replicate the wonders and performance of asbestos fiber, but we’ve come as close as anyone, and that’s something we pride ourselves on.”
In 1986, Ballew said he noticed a trend of public companies buying private, independent friction companies, which he didn’t appreciate, especially when they took shortcuts, leading to his decision to launch NeoBrake.
“Starting out, we marketed CM Brake lining as a way to navigate shrinking distribution channels due to these buyouts,” Ballew said. “Once CM Brake was absorbed, things got tougher. That’s when we found our own supplier and began formulating NeoBrake linings.”
NeoBrake plans to celebrate its 30th anniversary through October 2019, spreading special promotions throughout, along with anniversary merchandise and gifts. For more information, contact Ballew at 414-764-4211.