PHILADELPHIA—If a company reaches 100 years in business, it must be doing something right.
Stockwell Elastomerics Inc.'s employees agree.
The firm turned 100 in August, and now also has been named one of Rubber & Plastics News' Best Places to Work for 2019 thanks to strong ratings from employees surveyed through Best Companies Group.
"It's very special," President William Stockwell said of the 100th year anniversary. "In our lobby, along the wall, we have a picture of the founder, who was my great grandfather, and his two sons and then my father and me. It's something I'm proud of and frankly it's also a weight of responsibility. We want to continue this business, and that's the fun thing actually."
The company, originally Stockwell Rubber Co., was founded in 1919 and—as to be expected from a 100-year-old firm—has seen significant change throughout its evolution. It had to adapt as major forces compelled change.
One of the biggest was its shift from a distribution model to finished rubber goods. Stockwell was one of the reasons the company exited the distribution side as business began declining in the middle Atlantic states. Manufacturing was shifting from Philadelphia to the Sun Belt.
"Being a distributor, you couldn't reach those markets," Stockwell said. "The only way we could reach out and retain our business, and grow business, outside of the Philadelphia region was to get into custom manufacturing. We developed some good applications that allowed us to keep business that was thousands of miles away. Thankfully it worked."
Fabricating and molding silicone rubber is now the firm's core competence as Stockwell looks to help solve problems in the business-to-business technology center.
Most recently, the firm's rapid response plan has allowed it to remain competitive in the Philadelphia area, as well as the rest of U.S., in the midst of production offshoring to China.
"We're working on applications that we wouldn't have dreamed of even 20 years ago," Stockwell said. "The business has really shifted to alternative energy, LED lighting and electrical inverters that go into wind and solar farms."
One thing that hasn't changed, however, is Stockwell's commitment to its employees and the Philadelphia region. Stockwell intends to leave the company to his employees after setting up an ESOP in 2017 and selling 30 percent of his ownership stake into the trust. He intends to scale up from there, develop a succession plan and eventually sell the remainder.