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Flomatic – A Glens Falls industry on the grow

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

So here is some of my upbeat takeaway from the celebration Friday at Flomatic Valves on Pruyn’s Island in Glens Falls.

They were celebrating the company’s 85th anniversary and its $3.3-million, 20,000 square foot plant expansion (with thanks clearly expressed to New York State Economic Development for funding $660,000 of the project). Bo Andersson — Flomatic’s CEO since 1979 — was winning and quirky as the informal emcee.

Flomatic, happy to say, is an industrial firm going great guns.

Here’s a company actually profiting from Donald Trump’s tariffs. Flomatic’s valves are considerably more expensive than the ones made in China. It was explained that Flomatic’s edge is that their valves are the best — “High Quality Valves Built To Last.” Also that they have fast turnaround time and great customer service. (We learned that Flomatic now uses 3D printing to speed the making and testing of product prototypes.)

Foreground: Flomatic 24-inch valve.
Background left: The 20,000 square-foot building addition. Chronicle photo/Mark Frost

Even with a quality edge and a mission to keep improving both performance and profitability, company officials said they’ve gained a lot of ground because the Trump tariffs have made Flomatic’s prices much more competitive with China.

After the very good lunch served under a tent to guests and the work force, we were taken on tours of the plant.

In each department, workers explained what they do there. I liked it because these weren’t polished speakers; they were the actual worker bees. What was clear was, one, morale is high, and two, they know what they’re talking about.

Flomatic, owned by a Canadian company called Boshart Industries after a series of other foreign owners, says it “is a manufacturer of high quality valves primarily for domestic, municipal water and wastewater applications.” Its valves are also used in irrigation systems and wells.

It struck me what a great market to be in because it’s here forever. Nothing’s more essential and perpetual than moving water and treating wastewater.

Flomatic’s capsule history said, “Our valves are used in the heartland of rural America to large municipal water valves from coast to coast, including the major cities of Boston, Orlando, New York City, to the City of Los Angeles.”

And they’re international.

I remarked to a company executive that when my family was in Colombia, South America, in January, a tour guide mentioned that even amid the progress they’re making in some of their big cities, the sewage still flows untreated directly into a river. My thought: As Colombia hopefully continues to make progress, they’ll be in the market for valves.

The executive said they already are, that Flomatic sells valves to Latin America, including in Colombia. He said Flomatic is strong in central American countries like Guatemala. He said people there prefer the American product to the cheaper Chinese alternative — for two reasons. One, they deem it better. Two, they resent the Chinese for having destroyed the garment industry in their country.

Flomatic was founded in Hoosick Falls in 1933 by Forrest S. White. It was then White-Flomatic. It used to be situated in the former papermill building that now houses Troy craft beer maker Brown’s.

In 1996, Flomatic moved to Glens Falls, buying the building on Pruyn’s Island where Neles-Jamesbury also made valves.

Some Neles-Jamesbury workers transitioned seamlessly to working for Flomatic. But the Hoosick Falls roots still apply. I talked to one staffer who commutes to Glens Falls daily from Bennington, Vermont.

Flomatic makes check valves, foot valves, air/vacuum valves, automatic control valves, gate valves, plug valves and butterfly valves in sizes ranging from a quarter-of-an-inch to three feet.

In the building expansion, there’s a working system of pipes and valves, and a reservoir of water underneath the floor, so they can show exactly what they do.

The science and engineering were Greek to me, but I have no doubt Flomatic and the people working there are on top of their game.

The company said they expect to add 12 to 15 workers in the next three years, bringing the total to 65 or 70. I met a lot of people who’ve been there a long time.

Women in the small valve unit mentioned that toward Christmas, each department provides a feast one day for the rest of the workers. “You have to fast for a month” not to get fat.

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