Peterson Tool Company Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Peterson Tool Company Celebrates 60th Anniversary Posted on Jun 19, 2019

Accolades received from elected officials Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Marsha Blackburn

NASHVILLE, Nov. 28, 2018—Peterson Tool Company – an icon in the manufacturing world and in Nashville’s rich history of entrepreneurial success stories – celebrated its 60th anniversary in October with a special luncheon for employees, customers and business partners.

In a largely male-dominated industry, Peterson Tool has had women in top leadership and governance positions for nearly 40 years, including long-time board chair Nancy Peterson-Hearn and current CEO Diane Peterson Edwards.

During the anniversary celebration, Peterson-Hearn and Edwards presented awards and recognized

staff for their pivotal role in making the company what it is today – a worldwide leader in the manufacturing arena.

Special recognition was given to employees with:

  • 25+ years of service: 34 employees totaling 1,100 years of experience
  • 40+ years of service: Colin Bass, John Starkey, and Greg Wood

“I’m so grateful to our fantastic staff, who’ve made it possible for us to continue to grow and thrive in this business,” Edwards said. “For many years, our team has helped customers overcome engineering challenges, improve operational efficiencies and shorten lead times. It’s truly an honor to lead such a dedicated group of people.”

“I believe my husband is looking down with pride on this 60th anniversary,” Peterson-Hearn said. “He started the company in a chicken barn with $500, and we’ve continued to grow ever since.

“We’ve got great talented people, and my belief is you’ve got to be good to your people. They’re your company. They call me ‘Mama’ because I treat them like family. As a mother, that’s what I know best,” Peterson-Hearn said.

Peterson Tool’s success is reflected in its many industry honors, including Caterpillar’s Certified Supplier of Quality Products Award, GM’s Target for Excellence Award, and Ford’s Q101 Quality System Standard.

“As we celebrate 60 years, it’s important to remember where we’ve come from, but more importantly, where we want to go. And we’re making enormous strides in innovation and productivity that will certainly benefit our customers long-term,” Edwards added.

Accolades from elected officials and business leaders

Besides the celebration among company executives and staff, a bevy of elected officials and business leaders added their well wishes, including U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, U.S. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. President & CEO Butch Spyridon.

Sen. Alexander said: “For the past 60 years, the Peterson Tool Company of Nashville has been a leader in cutting tool solutions – serving a wide range of companies, from aerospace and automotive to farm equipment, home appliance, and defense, and supplying hundreds of good-paying jobs for our state. For over 30 years, Nancy Peterson-Hearn has provided strong leadership for the company, and now her daughter, Diane, is building on that success. Congratulations Nancy, Diane and everyone at Peterson Tool on your 60th anniversary. I wish for you an even more prosperous future.”

Rep. Blackburn said: “Peterson Tool Company has been a staple in the greater Nashville area for decades, providing more than just good jobs and economic growth for our communities, but a family environment that hardworking Tennesseans can call home. As a trailblazer for women and a nationally-recognized leader in business, I am grateful to call Nancy Peterson-Hearn my friend and mentor. Congratulations to Peterson Tools on this outstanding achievement. We are certain that under the guidance of you and your daughter, Diane Peterson Edwards, you will celebrate many more years of continued success.”

Spyridon said: “Peterson Tool Company is the quintessential Nashville business story. A homegrown, high quality, caring company with an incredible legacy in an incredible town. Without strong local corporations, like Peterson Tool, Nashville wouldn’t be the destination we are.” 

About Peterson-Hearn’s leadership

Peterson-Hearn assumed leadership of the company in 1979 after her husband died at the age of 45. She told customers about Mr. Peterson’s death six months later – only after she demonstrated her ability to successfully run the company. Under her leadership, the company has made exponential gains in sales, production, and reputation, and is ranked among the world’s premier designers and manufacturers of custom insert tooling.

Throughout her career, Peterson-Hearn has brought global attention to the precision machined parts industry with countless awards for her leadership and determination. The first American to earn the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award, she also received CABLE’s “Walk of Fame” award for women on corporate boards and the Gold Micrometer Award from the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA).

Extended conversation with Peterson-Hearn:

What does it mean to you to be celebrating the company’s 60th anniversary?

Peterson-Hearn: “It’s very emotional for me because if it had not been for the sales force, design engineers, top-of-the-class toolmakers and clerical and shipping staff, we would have nothing. They so seldom get credit. Today was very meaningful to see these men and women who have supported us and stayed with us when my husband died – many of them have been here since before that time. I’m very grateful to my family’s support and employees’ support. Because of those employees, we did not lose a customer when my husband died.”

How did you handle taking over the company after John’s death?

Peterson-Hearn: “When John died in 1979, I thought, ‘How is a housewife and mother of six going to take over?’ I knew I’d lose a few orders, so we didn’t say anything to our out-of-state and out-of-country customers. After about eight months we started calling on each one to tell them personally of my husband’s death, and they hadn’t noticed anything had changed.”

What was one of the toughest times in the company’s history?

Peterson-Hearn: “It was when we had our first and only layoffs in 2008-2009. One of our longtime older employees who had been hired by my husband years ago came to us and said ‘I know you’re going to have a layoff, and I’m volunteering. Let these young people have a job.’ That was very moving.”

What does the future hold for the company?

Peterson-Hearn: “My daughter Diane has taken us to new heights. She’s reorganizing and restructuring with new executives so she can plan for our ongoing growth. We want to keep growing our footprint and expand into other states and countries. We want to increase sales and have all our machines with operators day and night. Diane has been adding newer state-of-the-art automated machines as well. We’re very optimistic about the future.”

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