100 YEARS: Betts Industries Marks Century Of Service and Innovation in Tank Transport Industry
Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM
A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, the dawn of a new century heralded an exciting era of innovation and opportunity. For two friends — Louis Betts and Charles Fairchild — it was an ideal time to start their own company, Fairchild and Betts: Founders and Machinists.
In the booming river town of Warren, Pennsylvania, Fairchild and Betts quickly became known for the quality of the gas engines they produced for the oil fields around Warren. With continued growth in the Warren community, their busy iron foundry and job shop found additional work making street signs, street manholes, and even pot-bellied stoves.
As the company ended its second decade of business, Fairchild retired. The renamed Betts Foundry and Machine Company pushed forward in the face of a looming economic downturn. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression signaled the end of the traditional machine trade for Betts.
Upon the passing of company founder Louis Betts in 1934, the operation of Betts Foundry and Machine Company was now in the hands of a second generation. Assisted by his brothers Clyde and Raymond, Clifford Betts assumed the helm of the organization.
Having gained a solid background in industrial sales and management as a manufacturing representative, Cliff Betts possessed the vision and confidence to expand the company's niche as job shop specialists. Soon, Betts Foundry and Machine Company developed a reputation for taking the jobs that others would not, turning out quality products to meet the specific needs of their customers.
Seeing even more potential in the job shop work, Cliff Betts sold the foundry buildings and equipment in 1944 to focus the business strictly on the design and manufacture of machine components. The decision also necessitated a move to a new address — a small cement block building not far from the company's original location.
The end of World War II marked the beginning of significant change and growth throughout the country. Betts Machine Company was no different.
In 1946, Betts developed its first proprietary product — a new manifold valve for petroleum transport tanks. This patented valve proved instrumental in the company's growth during the next decade.
The post-war years were prosperous as Betts Machine Company grew to meet the demands of the burgeoning trucking industry. The shop floor space increased 50 percent in 1951.
During this time, Betts designed several new products destined to have long-term impact on safety and performance for tank transporters. Among these were the Warren Air Emergency Valve and the Warren Hydraulic Valve as well as patented clearance safety lamps, stop lamps, and turn signals.
By 1956 increasing sales resulted in the construction of a separate building for the production of safety lamps. In turn, a new independent entity was established — the Warren Manufacturing Company.
With the new decade underway, a third generation of the Betts family stepped into leadership roles with the company. In 1962, Richard Betts was elected president of Betts Machine Shop, with his brother Edward serving as vice president and director.
Committed to continued growth for the company, Richard Betts soon after approved the purchase of two local manufacturing firms, Ray Industries and Tiona Manufacturing. The resulting new company, Tiona-Betts, rapidly grew in sales and size, primarily from the demand for its patented manhole assembly for petroleum trucks.
Ever the innovators, the Betts company became involved in the electronics industry during the 1970s. The first important product in the line was a solid state flasher unit for use with Betts safety lamps. Strobe lights and other devices soon followed.
The 1970s and 1980s also were years of tremendous growth in the physical plant at Betts Machine Company. Tens of thousands of square feet of office and manufacturing space were added to keep up with the customer base that now reached worldwide.
To more effectively serve these customers, the company initiated a consolidation plan in 1981 that eventually merged the three entities — Betts Machine Company, Warren Manufacturing, and Tiona-Betts. The new Betts Industries remained committed to improving safety and performance for their customers, introducing dozens of new products in the years that followed.
True to its heritage, a strong sense of family pride continues at Betts as third, fourth, and fifth generation members lead various aspects of the business. This commitment to family also encompasses the local Warren community. As a result, area charities and community recreation have flourished through the years with donations and support from the Betts Foundation.
Betts Industries is proud of its ongoing service to some 2,500 customers in the United States and 50 foreign countries. Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the company now occupies 255,000 square feet over 15 acres. As company president Richard Betts recently noted, “our overall goal remains focused on meeting our customers needs, making the best better as we have since 1901.”
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