Ward J. “Tim” Timken Jr. has a marketing degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from the University of Virginia, but his business education began much earlier. It started as a boy, listening to the conversations at the family dinner table among his father, Ward J. “Jack” Timken Sr.; his grandfather, W.R. “Bob” Timken; and his uncle, W.R. “Tim” Timken Jr., all part of the dynastic line at The Timken Co.
“They would talk about what was going on in the company here and around the world,” says Timken, who is the fifth generation of his family to lead the Stark County company, one of the world’s leading producers of antifriction bearings and alloy steel components.
Fascinated by the talk, he never felt pressured to follow in his family’s formidable footsteps. That was the family pact: You only got into the business if you wanted in. “And you knew there was an application process,” he says. “You were expected to start low and work hard.”
That down-to-earth work ethic extends beyond Canton, colleagues say, as Timken takes on his most visible role in Northeast Ohio as new chairman of the board of Team NEO, the economic development engine for the 18-county region.
“You might think that he would have a sense of entitlement to leadership,” says Team NEO’s CEO, Tom Waltermire. “But I’ve been impressed with his dynamics with people. He knows what it takes to get people on board.”
And perhaps never before has it been more critical for Team NEO to get the rest of the region on board. In August, the organization was named as one of six JobsOhio Network regional partners. Team NEO received a $4.1 million, one-year grant to facilitate job attraction, retention and development in the region, an amount that exceeds its annual budget. That money will be dispersed among several economic groups. Team NEO also increased its board by 13 members.
Now the task is to get all these diverse partners working together. Collaboration hasn’t been a hallmark of the region. “We’re making progress,” Timken says. “I think Tom Waltermire has accomplished a lot in the past five years in putting in place a structure … that makes us realize we are a region and we have to act together.”
Waltermire says Timken “has the vision and conviction that we can make this work. … He has the personal drive that will make a difference. It runs in his family.”
Timken, 44, succeeded his uncle, the elder Tim Timken Jr., as chairman of the Timken Co. in 2005. His uncle was appointed ambassador to Germany by his friend, President George W. Bush, in 2005.
The new chairman of Team NEO says he sees his leadership role as following the core values that have guided the Timken Co. since his great-great grandfather founded the company in 1899: Ethics, quality, innovation and independence.
Those values, perhaps, helped the company emerge from the recent recession stronger than ever, adding almost 5,000 employees since 2009, bringing its total to more than 21,000 worldwide and 5,300 in Ohio. The company recently announced it was paying a dividend for the 358th consecutive quarter and received a tax incentive from Ohio to expand one of its Stark County plants — if labor negotiations are successful.
Of those core values, Timken says, ethics are his particular passion. Every new employee gets the message, he says. The Timken Co. was named one of the world’s 100 most ethical companies last year by Ethisphere, cited for its recycling efforts and concern for the environment.
He recognizes that in Democrat-dominated Northeast Ohio he will have to deal with other leaders who have vastly different political views. “People are beginning to get past that and realizing that we all have to focus on making the region better,” he says.
Meanwhile, in Stark County, the family business remains a topic at the dinner table in the Timken household.
Timken is married to an attorney. He and his wife, Jane, have two children, Henry and Emma. And though he is still a young man, Timken already has had to respond to the question of a sixth generation of leadership at the company.
When asked if he is grooming Henry for his job, Timken replies quickly: “Why not my daughter?”