In 1933, the National Lumber Manufacturing Association (which later became the National Forest Products Association and later still the American Forest & Paper Association) in Washington, DC, determined that information on the strength values and physical characteristics of wooden timbers was necessary to promote the use of timbers in the United States. To accomplish this goal, a wholly owned subsidiary was formed and named the Timber Engineering Company (TECO), which immediately established a laboratory for the physical testing of timbers.
The following year, in 1934, TECO purchased the rights to the "split-ring connector" from a German manufacturer. These split-rings were used in the assembly of heavy timber trusses in building construction and started TECO in the business of connectors and fasteners for wood construction. TECO's name became synonymous with split-rings, and today many architects and engineers still associate TECO with timber connectors. (TECO split-ring connectors are available from Cleveland Steel Specialties.)
TECO split-ring connectors were used in the construction of many large timber assemblies, including bridges, industrial facilities, and water towers. Most impressive amongst these are the blimp hangars built for the U.S. Naval Air Stations during the 1940s. A few of the original seventeen hangars remain standing at Tillamook (Oregon) Naval Air Station, and Marine Corps Air Station Tustin (California). An extensive history of MCAS Tustin was commissioned by the City of Tustin in 2008, the 65th anniversary of the hangars' completion.
By the 1940's, the TECO laboratory in Washington, DC, was the largest private wood products laboratory in the U.S. TECO established an internship program and played a major role in the early structural wood products industry, with many well-known names in government, academia and the private sector serving as interns there. In the early 1950's, TECO established a particleboard pilot plant at the laboratory and manufactured the first particleboard in the U.S.
In 1958, TECO provided a plywood technician on a full-time basis to conduct quality control activities at the Willamette Industries plywood plant in Lebanon, Oregon. Thus, TECO's Man-in-the-Mill (now Technician-in-the-Mill Program) was born. In order to support this program, TECO set up a small laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon. As the number of clients in the Pacific Northwest grew, a new laboratory was built in the mid-1960's in Eugene, Oregon, and it remains one of TECO's primary testing locations.
In 1968, TECO was sold to members of the management staff, and its headquarters were relocated to Chevy Chase, Maryland. A field office was established in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1970 as the number of clients in the southeastern U.S. grew. A financial holding company, DESCO, bought TECO in 1988, but was interested primarily in the Fastening and Connector Division that manufactured TECO timber connectors.
Just four years later, in 1992, DESCO decided to split up the company. TECO's Certification Division was sold to Ed Starostovic, who at the time was the owner of PFS Corporation of Madison, Wisconsin. The Fastening and Connector Division was sold to Cleveland Steel Specialties of Bedford Heights, Ohio, which still manufactures and markets TECO timber connectors.
Upon acquisition of TECO's certification business, Starostovic moved TECO's headquarters to Madison, Wisconsin and later to nearby Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. While continuing to focus on certification of OSB and plywood, TECO began designing and manufacturing specialized wood panel test machines for use by structural panel manufacturers in 1995. These machines, the first of which conducted concentrated static load tests, are now in more than 50 panel mills and testing facilities on three continents. TECO's certification business has experienced significant growth since 1992. This strong growth can be attributed to TECO's philosophy of providing customized, value-added certification programs unique to the wood products industry. This philosophy has also taken TECO beyond U.S. borders, with clients in North, Central and South America, Europe, and with a recognized presence in Japan.
Now located in Cottage Grove, WI, TECO continues where it began, as a significant contributor to the specialized needs of the ever-expanding engineered wood products business.