Pump it up
Gilbarco Veeder-Root, Greensboro
Millions of people literally touch their products weekly, but one of the lesser-known success stories in North Carolina manufacturing may be Greensboro-based Gilbarco Veeder-Root.
Incorporated in 1870 in Springfield, Mass., Gilbarco had about $420 million in sales and an operating margin of 5% when it was acquired by Danaher Corp. for $309 million in 2002. By 2015, Gilbarco Veeder-Root had revenue of $1.6 billion and operating profit of more than $300 million, or about 15%, reflecting expansions into other technologies and greater demand for pumps.
That demand is prompting Gilbarco to add 250 jobs at the West Friendly Avenue plant, says Wayne Gibbs, a Teamsters union business agent who represents about 550 hourly workers. About 1,500 salaried staffers also work at the Greensboro site, he says. Gilbarco customers include Costco and Circle K, which are replacing old pumps with new models that accept “smart” credit cards that improve security, according to a June investor presentation.
“Virtually every gas pump in the U.S. is having to be revamped to accept the new credit cards, which has been a blessing for the plant,” Gibbs says. Gilbarco has hired about 150 hourly workers in the first half of 2016 and may add another 100 by Jan. 1, many of them for a new third shift, he adds.
“It’s a great endorsement when a local company makes an expansion,” says David Ramsey, executive vice president for economic development at the nonprofit Greensboro Partnership. “They are one of two [pump manufacturers] that can deliver their product on a worldwide basis, and they’ve seen a nice uptick in demand.” Gilbarco declined to comment.
The growth doesn’t involve any local or state incentives. Some businesses prefer avoiding public scrutiny that occurs when government agencies get involved.
The expansion reflects the dynamism of Guilford County’s manufacturing sector, which Ramsey cites as the region’s key selling point in competing for new industry. “Greensboro has a ton of potential energy, it’s in a wonderful location and it has a great price point for labor, so it’s a very easy place to sell,” he says. Ramsey moved to Greensboro last year after heading Mississippi’s state economic-development organization.
Charles Gilbert and John Barker started the business that was renamed Gilbarco in 1929. Its headquarters moved to Greensboro in 1965. Gilbarco’s profit gains helped Washington, D.C.-based Danaher’s stock surge more than 39,000% over the last 30 years, making it the sixth-best U.S. stock over that time period, The Wall Street Journal said in a January story.
A conglomerate that makes hundreds of products after acquiring more than 400 companies since 1984, Danaher is splitting into two groups this month. Gilbarco will be among the biggest units in a $6 billion industrial technologies business called Fortive Corp., based in Everett, Wash. Danaher is retaining its scientific and technology businesses.