BROADALBIN — Community leaders were given a custom tour of the Broadalbin Manufacturing Corp., a local machine shop that specializes in tailor-made metal fabrications for businesses and individuals across the state, during the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth’s monthly business tour.
“We’re basically a job shop, we do everything. From GE to the local farmer up the road to somebody that needs a $5 piece of steel, we don’t turn anybody away. We try to take care of everybody, everyday,” shop foreman Ryan Sowle said while leading the tour Thursday.
Broadalbin Manufacturing is a precision metal fabrication shop located at 8 Pine St. capable of repairing or producing a variety of components and custom pieces.
Sowle said the company primarily produces pieces to fill small orders from sketches provided by the purchaser or replicating existing items like a metal storage box the company produced for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department to hold sonar equipment to replace a wooden box that was used previously.
The business makes some smaller items in bulk, such as pins that are made by the thousands, and most orders are filled within two weeks.
“We build to what the customer wants,” Sowle said.
A few examples of completed work Broadalbin Manufacturing has produced includes truck racks, snowmobile skies, plow frames, docks, tables, patio furniture, metal railings, gates, handrails, farm equipment, mechanical components and architectural steel pieces.
“It’s a hidden gem in Fulton County, there’s a lot of small manufacturing operations that we’ve got to make people more aware of,” CRG President and CEO Ronald Peters said Tuesday.
The 16,000 square-foot machine shop is equipped with a full suite of state of the art computer programmable equipment to bend, manipulate, cut and weld metal.
“We have a system where we let our guys program right at the machines so they learn more and eventually if they want to move on they’ve got that experience,”Sowle said. “It’s very tough to find skilled people in this industry.”
Sowle spoke highly of Broadalbin Manufacturing Corp. owner Michael Deuel, who allows employees to learn and develop their skills knowing they will become more desirable to other companies and may decide to take another opportunity.
“He never blames anybody for bettering themselves. I’ve had guys leave and come back,” Sowle said.
Sowle said the business has around 15 staff members with about half of the employees working for Broadalbin Manufacturing for 20 years or longer.
“I’ve been here since 1993, fresh out of high school, started right out just sweeping and worked right up through the ranks and there are guys here that have been here longer than me. It’s a pretty good place, the owner’s a great guy, it’s a good company to work for,” Sowle said. “I’ve never worried about having a job, which is a lot of peace of mind, especially these days.”
Sowle noted that the industry has changed over the past 10 years, especially during the economic downturn about five years ago that saw large local buyers, like General Electric, decreasing the number of custom orders they placed.
“When GE slows down, everybody that’s in that pool, they’re all fighting for the same work,” Sowle said.
Even as business slowed, Sowle said Deuel consistently maintained staffing levels at the machine shop.
“The owner doesn’t believe in laying people off. There’s been times when we’ve been quiet, we just put paint brushes into people’s hands, whatever we can do to keep them on and keep them busy,” Sowle said. “He doesn’t just think of the business aspect, he thinks of people’s home lives, too.”
Business has started picking up recently, Sowle said, and the company has taken on several new clients.
Sowle said he enjoys the work that he does and he tries to encourage young people to consider taking up the profession, sometimes allowing high school shop classes to visit the business after hours to see the variety of work the machinists are able to create.
“You never know what the next phone call’s going to be,” Sowle said. “It’s different everyday, that’s why I like it and you get to meet a lot of people.”