SIFCO INDUSTRIES, INC., a major international metalworking firm supplying the airline industry, began in 1913 when five Cleveland men formed the Steel Improvement Co. Initially a small, heat-treating operation designed to improve the physical properties of metal, Steel Improvement was located on Chester Ave. In 1916, the company became the Steel Improvement & Forge Co. when it acquired nearby Forest City Machine Co., a maker of pole-line hardware. After servicing the automobile, arms, and naval industries during WORLD WAR I, the company's business declined and the company's executives moved away from dependence on the AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY in the 1920s by entering the valve, pneumatic tool, mining, and material-handling industries. The firm moved into larger quarters at Addison Rd. and Metta Ave. in 1928. Steel Improvement & Forge, like many Cleveland firms, struggled during the Depression, but the company benefited from a growing aviation industry and the firm manufactured forgings for both British and American aircraft during WORLD WAR II. By researching new methods of improving metals by forging, the company also developed the turbines and blades for the first American jet engine.
In the postwar period, the firm's acquisition of the forging division of Champion Forge Co. in 1954 made Steel Improvement one of the nation's largest commercial forging shops. The company expanded into related areas, such as custom machining, by acquiring several small companies and developed significant forging operations in Argentina, Brazil, Japan, and India. In 1969, the company changed its name to SIFCO Industries, Inc. It continued to grow in the 1970s and 1980s as the aerospace and defense industries expanded and for which it provided a number of forgings and replacement parts for the aviation industry, also found its own fortunes tied to the expansion or contraction of the aviation industry. By 1995 SIFCO's revenues were over $61 million and the company had plants at 970 E. 64th St. in Cleveland and 5708 Schaaf Rd. in Independence, employing 150 people. In 1996, sales reached $85.4 million as Boeing and other major customers increased demand for the company's products. That same year, the company's products supplied 90 percent of airlines worldwide and SIFCO Industries ranked in the PLAIN DEALER's top ten list of area companies by average profit growth. By the end of 1997, the company reported that annual revenues rose to $108.8 million, but the recession that began in the late 1990s reduced profits across the airline industry and, as a result, at SIFCO as well. This financial situation grew steadily worse following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which effectively crippled the airline industry's revenues. By 2004, SIFCO Industries, was still struggling after several years of financial losses. With operation throughout the world, SIFCO Industries maintained its headquarters at 970 E. 64th St. in Cleveland.