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Mark Wetzel, Deseret News
O.C. Tanner celebrates 85 years in business. While known for its jewelry and making of the 2002 Olympic medals, its core business is helping organizations appreciate people who do great work. Its world headquarters are at 1930 S. State in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY – O.C. Tanner is known for its jewelry and the medals it made for the 2002 Winter Games, but that’s not the core of its business. O.C. Tanner helps organizations appreciate people who do great work. And the company has been doing it for 85 years.

Obert C. Tanner started his company in 1927. "Mr. Tanner got his start in the basement of his mother's home," manager of client services Charlotte Shragg said. He started with an order of lapel pins for LDS seminary graduates: something more than a diploma.

"This is actually an original pin from 1932," Shragg said, pointing to a small blue pin that still shines after eight decades.

Tanner expanded to make symbols of appreciation that caught on not only for graduates, but ultimately workers worldwide. "People want to be appreciated for great work, it's as simple as that," Shragg said. "When you do that, people give you that much more."

He never lost sight of the responsibility to the workforce he had, said Charlotte Miller, senior vice president.  “He would look at the parking lot and say, ‘I’m responsible for those people who are here, to make sure they can feed their families, house their families, make their car payments.’’’

Today, the $400 million company has approximately 1,500 employees and 8,500 clients. It has three headquarters: Salt Lake City; Burlington, Ontario, Canada; and Loughton, Essex, England.

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"Every employee here is working on a great mission," Miller said. "Everybody is helping employees somewhere be appreciated for the great work they do. Being part of that mission brings joy to the people working on it.”

Another way the company shows its appreciation to an employee is by giving him or her a crisp $100 bill on his or her birthday.

The founder of the company passed away in 1993, but workers say his vision and values endure.

"I think he would be impressed with the intellectual property, and the teaching we've done, and the impact we've had on employees all across the world," Miller said.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com