TORONTO—Hamilton Kent Inc., a multinational manufacturer and distributor of resilient rubber, watertight sealing systems and components for underground infrastructure, is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Executives said innovation has been the key to the company's longevity.
The firm was founded in a garage in Kent, Ohio, in 1943 as a manufacturer of rubber components for the World War II effort. Since then it has evolved into making products for pipe and manholes for underground structures.
Hamilton Kent said it now is a major manufacturer of gaskets, connectors and other sealing components for underground infrastructure. It operates major facilities in Toronto and Winchester, Tenn., and employs about 125.
Hamilton Kent's primary industry is underground infrastructure, but the company also is involved in transportation, expansion seals, parking decks and roadways, and it even has a product in the bottling industry. It opened a Canadian manufacturing plant in Cooksville in 1957, then transferred to a new plant in Toronto in 1981.
"We're definitely on the cutting edge in looking for ways to partner with our customers and develop new products," said Alan Siebenthaler, a marketing and territory manager at Hamilton Kent.
One innovation is the SOCL Gasket, a price-competitive gasket for pipe-to-pipe and manhole connections. According to Siebenthaler, it is more economically sound than those offered by competitors without much loss in efficiency.
Hamilton Kent also partnered with Clean Water Resources L.L.C. in 2011 to produce, distribute and sell the Lifespan System Clean Water Resources line, which is a watertight, locking rubber manhole frame. It prevents rain inflow from entering sanitary sewers.
"We have great people, great products and are always looking for ways to service the industry," Siebenthaler said. "One of the things that we've noticed is that customers rely on us when it's a product they absolutely cannot have a failure on.
"If it's going to be a high profile project, or a really expensive project or stringent testing, they rely on Hamilton Kent because they trust that we're going to give them a product that's going to work."
The firm doesn't have anything special planned for its anniversary, although it may hold a celebration toward the end of the year to coincide with Christmas.
Hamilton Kent does plan on adding a new machine to enhance production in its Toronto facility. The firm would then send the equipment it is replacing to its Winchester facility.
The company wouldn't describe the machinery, nor comment on specifics of the purchase.
"What really differentiates Hamilton Kent from the others is that we invest and continue to innovate in good as well as in hard times," Hamilton Kent President Bernard Gregoire said.
"The customers always come first, and you have to support them during the lows of economic cycles as much as when the markets are peaking," he said. "Their needs differ greatly depending where you are in the cycle, but we adjust accordingly. This helps us build a partnership with our customers and move beyond the standard customer/supplier relationship."