Eaton Township was first settled in 1810, and the ancestors of the Ross family were there by 1839. Ray Ross was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the early 1900s. The roots he planted were well-established and ran deep — resulting in a family legacy that is committed to preserving the land and the environment that make up the township today.
Ray’s son and daughter-in-law Robert and Ada May Ross went on to found Robert Ross Industrial Disposal in 1949. The company grew from Robert’s idea for a new way to dispose of industrial waste. It was one of the first hazardous waste management companies in the United States. It grew over the years into the companies that today form The RossWay Group, one of which is Ross Environmental Services Inc.
“My grandfather and grandmother started the business,” explains Bill Cromling III, president of Ross Transportation Services. “My grandfather saw an opportunity to handle the industrial waste in other businesses. He saw incineration as a better way than dumping it into a landfill or river.”
Robert Ross Industrial Disposal took on several names before expanding into Ross Environmental Services Inc., Ross Incineration Services Inc. and Ross Transportation Services Inc. The three companies, along with other companies in the RossWay family, can deal with the recycling, disposal and transport of virtually any type of waste. The RossWay Group is run by the second and third generations of the Ross family — Maureen Ross Cromling and her husband, Bill Cromling II, as well as their children, Jon and Bill III. 
The family has become stewards of the land in Eaton Township. Beginning with the land Robert bought when he started Ross Environmental, the Ross Cromling family has acquired more than 1,000 acres of land in the township over the years. 
Much of that acreage serves as buffer property — separating RossWay Group facilities from most residential property. Three years ago, the Cromling family bought the Pine Brook Golf Course on Durkee Road, in part to protect the land from residential development. “The golf course is going to stay a golf course in perpetuity,” says Jon. 
The property is being maintained by the Cromlings. With an eye on preservation, they are evaluating ideas for how to one day develop the property in an environmentally sustainable manner. 
“There are plans for development in Eaton Township to bring a tax base,” says Jon. “It will be a low-impact, environmentally friendly development, as we are an environmental company.”
Today, Bill and Jon are introducing the business to the fourth generation of the Ross family, who range in age from 10 to 26. The RossWay foundation was established to involve the next generation in philanthropic efforts. “As a family business, we need to protect our longevity and stability,” says Jon.
In 1984 the Cromling family created the Ross Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofit efforts in Lorain County, particularly around the Midview Local School District. “[Bill’s] kids are in Midview schools, and we’ve donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Midview Schools through the Ross Foundation,” says Bill.
As the RossWay Group has added to its portfolio of environmental services companies, the goal of the family remains: “Integrity, honesty, hard work and a commitment to the community,” says Bill. “It’s a big part of what we do. We’re a member of this community, we live in this community, and we work in the community.”                  — Karin Connelly