Editor's note: This is the third of four stories about businesses being inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame.
Veeder-Root Co. continues to change with the times to remain a world leader.
Veeder-Root, a global leader of environmental fuel tank monitoring, will be one of four businesses inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame Oct. 17 at the Blair County Convention Center.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Adam Woodring assembles a Red Jacket underground pump at Veeder-Root Co.,
a global leader of environmental fuel
tank monitoring, in Duncansville
on Sept. 29.
"From its beginnings as a manufacturer of hinges and counting and measuring devices, Veeder-Root's innovations have kept pace with ever-changing market conditions to establish its legacy of market leadership," said Hall of Fame Committee Chairwoman Claudia Montero Pequignot of Allegheny Ridge Corp.
Michael Carini, Veeder-Root director of materials, said the company is honored by the recognition.
"We've been in the community for 54 years and have become one of the more stable organizations in the area. It is quite an honor to be named to the Hall of Fame," Carini said. "It is a very nice recognition for all of our employees here now and those who started here 50-plus years ago. The current and past employees will be very proud of what they accomplished over the years."
The beginnings of Veeder-Root, the world's leading supplier of automatic tank gauging and fuel management systems and one of the few companies in the industry to design, manufacture and service its own products, can be traced back to 1866. That's when the Root Co., a hinge manufacturer, was founded in Bristol, Conn. The following year, the company expanded to manufacture counting and measuring devices for production, textile equipment and census taking.
In 1895, Curtis Veeder, the founder of Veeder Manufacturing Co., invented a cyclometer to record the miles traveled on a bicycle. The cyclometer's success led to a full line of Veeder counting devices.
In 1928, the Root and Veeder companies merged to form Veeder-Root Inc. of Hartford, Conn., the largest manufacturer of counting devices in the world.
Today, Veeder-Root is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Danaher Corp., based in Simsbury, Conn.
Veeder-Root came to Altoona in 1956 and moved into its 160,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on Route 764 near Duncansville in 1957.
The local plant is the largest of two Veeder-Root manufacturing facilities - the other is a small assembly plant in Shanghai, China.
When it first opened in Blair County, Veeder-Root manufactured mechanical gasoline computers and meter registers.
"Those were the two things Veeder-Root was known for at the time," Carini said.
Through the 1940s, '50s and '60s, Veeder-Root mechanical computers could be found on more than 90 percent of U.S. and Canadian gasoline pumps.
In the 1970s when gasoline prices began to soar, Veeder-Root was the first company to manufacture gasoline computers that would register $1 or more for a gallon of gasoline. During the 1970s gas crisis, the company also introduced the automatic tank gauge to help gas station owners accurately detect loss and released the first generation of TLS (tank level sensing) monitoring products which monitor leaks and inventory.
"We became the world leader in that endeavor. Since the late 1970s, that has been our mainstay product for Veeder-Root," Carini said. "As the world has gone electronic, there was not as much need for the mechanical products. We do not make as many as we used to make."
In 2002, Red Jacket, a manufacturer of mechanical fuel pumps, was acquired and manufacturing was moved to the local plant, bringing an additional 60 new jobs to Blair County.
Veeder-Root has continued to develop new products and upgrades to existing products to meet its customers' needs.
For example, the station diagnostic system monitors hazardous emissions during fueling, and the phase two water detector prevents undetected water in ethanol-blended fuels from separating and damaging engines.
Veeder-Root products are distributed worldwide.
"About 20 years ago we changed our focus to lean manufacturing - eliminating waste out of the processes and making sure we branded quality into the products," Carini said. "Our success and longevity are because of lean manufacturing that helped us to compete on a worldwide basis."
Today Veeder-Root employs about 300 people at the local plant, down from the nearly 1,000 that worked there in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"That was when there was a need for the gasoline computers. We were running three full shifts. The work was a lot more labor-intensive than the products we make today," Carini said. "Now we run one main shift and a second and third shift at selected times when they are needed."
Community service has always been important at Veeder-Root as the employees formed a community service action team in 2008. The team has donated many labor hours and raised more than $20,000 which has been donated to numerous local organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Family Crisis Center, Gulf Restoration Network, American Cancer Society, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, March of Dimes, United Way, Altoona Food Bank, and Quaint Corner Children's Museum.
"We have made an effort to raise money for the community," Carini said. "Everyone here really gets behind it."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.