When a manufacturing company can hang around for 65 years and still remain vital despite increasing global competition, that says a lot about how well the business is run.
Gordon Brush Mfg. Co. Inc., based in the City of Industry, has managed to do both.
The company recently moved from Commerce to a new $16 million, 183,000-square-foot building in Industry that’s three times bigger than its previous facility.
“We’re continuing to grow and we added over 750 customers this year,” said Alan Schechter, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We tried to expand many times in Commerce, but there was a lot of red tape. We were also heavily recruited by other states. We had a private meeting with the governor of Arizona — they were rolling out the red carpet for us. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was also interested. We pride ourselves on being an American manufacturer.”
COMPANY OPTS TO REMAIN IN CALIFORNIA
That philosophy is what prompted Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, D-El Monte, and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, to visit Gordon Brush a couple of weeks ago to thank the company for staying in Southern California.
“Despite foreign competition and companies replicating their products, Gordon Brush, one of the last brush makers in the U.S., continues to manufacture its goods right here in the San Gabriel Valley, employing local residents and stimulating our region’s economy,” Napolitano said during her visit.
MORE THAN 15,000 TYPES OF BRUSHES MADE
Founded in 1951, Gordon Brush is a leading manufacturer of specialty, custom and standard brushes for industrial, commercial and consumer uses. The company employs about 125 full-time workers. Many of them have been with Gordon Brush for 30 to 40 years.
And brushes? The company makes more than 15,000 types that are used in the aerospace, medical, electronics, janitorial, military, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries.
Duster brushes, strip brushes, bore brushes, detail brushes, flow-thru brushes — the list is long and this specialty manufacturer has amassed a roster of clients that includes Boeing, McMaster-Carr, Motion Industries and Techni-Tool, among others.
A BIG INVESTMENT IN EQUIPMENT
“Fifty percent of our business is custom brushes,” Schechter said. “Many times we don’t even know what the brushes are used for. A company will send us the specs and we make them.”
The company’s facility at 3737 Capital Ave. in Industry houses an array of high-tech equipment — with some of the machines valued at more than $1 million — but some of the work is still done by hand.
On Wednesday, 30-year employee Roberto Valenzuela, 68, placed a couple of steel wires between two clamps on a machine that proceeded to twist the wires tightly together. When that process was completed he inserted the bristle material onto the wires and the machine bound them together.
“I like this job,” said Valenzuela. “Been here a long time.”
PRODUCTS FOR THE MILITARY AND THE PUBLIC
Gordon Brush produces custom-made brushes that the U.S. Army uses to clean the main gun on its Abrams tanks. The effectiveness of the brushes — and the fact that they were produced and delivered when the Army desperately needed them — combined to save the Department of Defense more than $1.5 billion.
The company’s products have been used on NASA space shuttles and lunar modules and its brushes are also used to clean the guidance system and guns on the Apache helicopter.
At the other end of the spectrum, one of the company’s more popular products is the FootMate System. The unit includes a set of brushes that are attached to a rubber base lined with small suction cups. The FootMate can be placed on the floor of a shower stall or bathroom. After a gel is applied, users can rub their feet back and forth through the brushes, which massage tender areas of the foot and remove dead skin.
Gordon Brush has managed to thrive amid economic ups and downs in the economy. But the threat of competition remains real as lower-priced Chinese products continue to flood the market.
“Companies that have nothing to differentiate themselves on besides price are the most vulnerable to the threat of lower-priced Chinese-made products,” company President and CEO Ken Rakusin said in a statement.
“In spite of all of these issues, I was determined to build and grow my business in the United States by reinvesting profits into the purchase of millions of dollars in manufacturing equipment and machinery. Pride in contributing to the American economy is near and dear to my heart.”