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It's Who We Are

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

By Chris Chamers & Mary Carpenter

A foundry is a factory where castings are produced by melting metal, pouring the resulting liquid into a mold and then allowing it to solidify. It is a process that dates back more than 4,000 years.

The American iron foundry was born of necessity. In the mid-1600s there was a growing need for metal containers, tools and utensils. The early Massachusetts colonists needed implements to carve farms out of the newly explored wilderness. Their wives needed pots to cook in. In order to be successful, they needed to create their own industries and one of the first was metalworking.

To address the problem, John Winthrop, Jr. sailed to England in 1640 and raised capital to open the first foundry in the colonies. An avid chemist and amateur scientist, Winthrop saw the incredible benefit of establishing an iron foundry. Construction began in 1645 on the banks of the Saugus River in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Over the ensuing 200 years, foundries sprang up throughout the colonies. One of them was the Port Henry Cedar Point Foundry in Essex County, New York. In 1897, disaster struck when the foundry caught fire. The buildings were destroyed, but the machinery remained. That was when Alfred Guibord stepped in.

In addition to being president of the original Merchants Bank in Plattsburgh, Guibord was also an enthusiastic supporter of economic development in the city. Along with partner John Weaver, Guibord bought the Cedar Point equipment and had it set up on White Street, just south of the growing community’s business district. Started as a gray iron foundry, it initially produced drainage castings, stock valves and other machined castings for paper, mining and other regional industries. {Gray iron is a graphite-based cast iron that gets its name from the color graphite creates.} Business was brisk and it wasn’t long long before Plattsburgh Foundry made its mark as a leader in the growing industry.

Three decades later, Alfred’s son, Robert H. Guibord, who was a minority partner in the Plattsburgh Foundry and Machine Company at the time, bought out the other stockholders. Ever the entrepreneur, he developed another company, Saranac Pulp and Paper (at the location of the present-day Georgia Pacific plant on Margaret Street in Plattsburgh) and moved the Foundry so the two companies could work in tandem.

By the 1930s Guibord was disappointed in his new venture and exited the pulp and paper business and brought the Foundry operation back to its original location.

The Great Depression brought hard times across the U.S. and the North Country was not exempt. Robert Guibord’s son, Richard, had tried selling insurance and cars, but no one was buying at that time. In 1937 he joined his father in the family business, bringing a dimension to the company it had not had before. His forte was metallurgy, completely self-taught.

As Richard learned more about the foundry business, he became interested in the International Nickel Corporation of Canada, a company that was licensing a new long lasting nickel chromium alloy. Becoming a licensee for its patented “white irons” (Ni-Hard, Hi-Chrome and Ni-Resist) would allow the Foundry’s products to outlast its competitors. Richard moved quickly to become only the second company east of the Mississippi River to use the product, a venture that further enhanced the Foundry’s reputation.

A synergistic relationship between Richard and longtime Foundry employee, Urgel Carpentier, lead to new ideas and new products. In the 1960s, Carpentier invented the first Double Flap Airlock Valve, which eliminated leakage of dry material. The new valve was embraced by the mining industry and opened an exciting market for the Foundry.

The Foundry, now known as Plattco after a name change in the 1990s, is best known for Carpentier’s Double Flap Airlock Valve which comes in four standard models: an H-Series - their premier flap valves, an R-Series - their radial valves, an S8-Series — their low-profile valves, and finally a PCV-Series - their Pollution Control Valves and Rotary Valve Replacements. Valves are made in various sizes from six to 24 inches, large enough for a human to fit inside. The valves contain two mating parts, a seat and a flapper, which open and close to allow material to flow through the two chambers with the help of a timing device. The foundry continues to cast other items such as slide gates and custom work.

During the last five decades, the Foundry expanded along White Street, creating a campus that includes buildings for Sales, Human Resources and Engineering as well as a Steel Center, a vehicle maintenance shop and a Pattern Shop that welcomes customers.

The Foundry’s history of innovation and its problem-solving approach has been its hallmark, making it the place to go to find solutions to difficult problems -- problems that involve high temperature, high pressure and abrasive or corrosive materials.

“People come to us with problems no one else can figure out,” explained Michele Derrigo-Barnes, Plattco’s Vice President of Manufacturing & Engineering. “We deal with a lot of one-offs which require a great deal of design and manufacturing time to find the solution, but that is what we are known for. We are problem solvers. We tailor our products around others’ needs.”

Derrigo-Barnes continued, “We take a lot of pride in our attention to detail and being on time. We keep our word and if there is anything that goes wrong, we will be right there. We will make sure the wrong is righted because it’s who we are. That’s why our customer service is top-notch.”

Plattco relies heavily on word-of-mouth to promote its business – one of the benefits of existing in a niche field. With record sales in 2022 and a backlog of orders entering 2023, the approach is working. Today Plattco is a 60-person, employee-owned company that recruits staff through word-of-mouth and internships, working to help them grow within the company and set their own career paths. Some employees have been with the company for more than 40 years, while others are relatively new and still learning. That difference creates an opportunity for institutional knowledge to be passed down through hands-on training from the previous generation.

Plattco continues its rich history of innovating. In addition to owning several U.S. and International patents, the company is in the process of implementing a new electronic Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System to improve its internal operations. The profits from the past two banner years will be used to update machines, including some from the 1940s. This is an exciting time for the 134-year-old company.

The Life and Times of Urgel Carpentier Industry has great respect for education. To be successful in a field like engineering you need to be highly trained. An eighth-grade dropout working in that capacity? That’s impossible. But Urgel Carpentier proved it wasn’t Carpentier, born in Lacolle, Quebec in 1911, moved with his family to the North Country in 1922. He attended school in Chazy, but dropped out at a young age. Along the way he earned what we now call a GED, but had no further formal education.

As a young man he worked at the Pal Blade Company which manufactured blades for safety razors at its factory on River Street in Plattsburgh – now Durkee Street. There he worked his way up from machinist to manager of production.

After a brief stint at similar companies in Brooklyn and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, he returned to Plattsburgh and spent the rest of his career with Plattsburgh Foundry, now Plattco. There he served as Vice President of Engineering and Vice President of the Plattco Corporation. During his tenure he developed and held patents on several innovative products, including the World Renowned dust valve used originally in the mining industry and now in pollution abatement equipment all over the world.

Urgel Carpenter worked at Plattco until he was well into his 80s, leading, innovating and inspiring others until his retirement in the 1990s.

Ralph Coon, President & CEO of Plattco When I joined Plattco four years ago, one of the first things that was obvious was the impact that history, experience and perseverance had on the company’s culture. From the family atmosphere that started with the Guibords, to the commitment to endure and succeed that came from emergence from bankruptcy, the company culture is one of strength and purpose while also having a focus on family, community and life /work balance.

Continuous operations in pouring metal for over 125 years keeps us grounded in our past successes and challenges. Welcoming new generations and partners to our team challenges us to grow and keep innovating as we look to the future.

Plattco Corporation Plattco is a proud Plattsburgh based community of employees that continue to build on the accomplishments of our predecessors. We have learned to look for creativeness and innovation in nontraditional spaces, just like Urgel Carpentier. Our success comes from ensuring our customers receive more than they expect and have a partner while they move toward success for themselves.

An element of Plattsburgh Foundry’s history can be found in its logo — a Hessian soldier – which recognizes the 30,000 mercenaries who fought with the British during the American Revolutionary War. The Guibords bought the 100-year-old Hessian soldier pattern in 1897 – the company’s first year in business. The idea was to create fireplace andirons for people to burn in effigy. Word of mouth quickly spread about the Foundry’s quality and attention to detail and customers began to ask them to cast other items. From there the Hessian soldier was adopted as a logo to honor the quality of products Plattsburgh Foundry creates and exports worldwide, and it has remained so ever since.

Plattco 17 White Street Plattsburgh, NY 12901 518 563-4640

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