HARRISON, Ohio - It isn’t every day you see a bishop at a groundbreaking.
“No, this is the first time I’ve done this,” Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr said after blessing the ground at JTM Food Group’s $26.1 million expansion in Harrison Jan. 7.
He was there because JTM President Tony Maas invited him.
“Tony is a man of deep, deep faith,” Schnurr said. “He commits this company, the profits of this company to further the teachings of Christ. That’s pretty impressive.”
It’s easy to find evidence of that commitment, from the Right-to-Life ads on the back of company trucks to the $1.4 million in grants awarded to mostly religious charities in the Maas Family Foundation’s 2015 tax return.
Maas calls it a unifier for his 475-employee company, where department meetings often start with a prayer and revenue grew nearly 8 percent to $167 million in 2016.
“Might sound crazy,” Maas said. “But in a lot of ways it’s a ministry to us. It’s a calling, a vocation. We cannot hire people, cannot work with charities and work in the community unless JTM is successful. So, that is a driving force among everyone here.”
Why JTM is not for sale
What started with a Delhi Township butcher shop in 1960 has evolved into a national food-processing company that sells more than 600 menu items to school-lunch programs, military clients, grocery stores and restaurants. It’s a family-owned business that has employed all six of Tony Maas’ siblings and more than a dozen from the next generation.
Its recent groundbreaking will lead to a 193,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center that will double its production capacity to 185 million pounds of kettle-cooked food. Maas thinks that will ensure 10 years of growth, hundreds of new menu items and about 150 new employees over the next t10 years.
But that’s just fuel for the Maas family flame.
“As far as putting their faith into action, they’re a rare breed,” said Dwight Young, executive director of BLOC Ministries, a West Side nonprofit that’s trying to break the cycle of poverty with tutoring, mentoring, job training and fitness programs.
Young has worked with the Maas family since 1998. They’re among his biggest supporters, financially and in terms of friendship.
Young has watched JTM hire and help families he’s counseled in Cleves and Price Hill. He lost count of the long-term employees he sees every year at the company Christmas party. Tony’s brother, Jerome Maas, serves on BLOC Ministries’ board.
“They just make no bones about it,” Young said. “Their faith is what they do.”
BLOC Ministries ranked 5th among individual grant recipients for the Maas Family Foundation last year. Here are the largest gifts:
- Ruah Woods (Catholic retreat center): $405,000
- St. John the Baptist Church in Harrison: $125,000
- Underground Ministries (Christian music club in Forest Park): $105,000
- Athenaeum of Ohio (seminary): $100,000
- BLOC Ministries: $82,500
Tony Maas said the family tries to focus its giving on educational causes, Catholic parishes and charities, right-to-life organizations and community-building nonprofits like BLOC Ministries.
Although JTM competes in a consolidating industry in which publicly traded rivals like AdvancePierre Foods are looking for companies to acquire, the Maas family has resolved to remain independent. It wants stable growth that feeds the ministry JTM has become.
“You’ve got to have a common purpose,” he said. “You’ve got to live for something more than yourself. I really believe that’s what creates the uniqueness of what JTM is. Yes, we’re trying to provide a living for all of us. But there’s something greater we can do together.”