Sumter Development Board Announces 2007 Manufacturers of the Year

February 02, 2008

Eaton, Kaydon and G&G Metal Fabrication

A world-class manufacturer of electrical distribution and control equipment joins a global maker of motion control products and a familiar emergency vehicles manufacturing and service company as the 2007 Manufacturers of the Year.

The Manufacturers of the Year are judged by a panel from Sumter’s Industry Appreciation Week Committee, led by the Sumter Development Board. The companies that compete for the honors are self nominated, and graded on three primary criteria: their economic impacts on Sumter, their commitments to their workforces, and their contributions to the community. 

“All three of these companies represent the things we feel are most important,” said Jay Schwedler, president of the Sumter Development Board. “They invest in their local businesses, they take care of their people, and they are involved and active in our community. We evaluated numerous nominations, and there were many worthy companies, but these three really stood out from the pack as growing, caring and involved companies.”


The Eaton Corporation plant in Sumter’s Live Oak Industrial Park is a rapidly growing local facility that has gone from the fourth largest manufacturer to the second largest in a matter of four years. Eaton Sumter, which manufactures electrical distribution equipment, has been riding a wave of growth that now sees it employing about 870 people. 

Likewise, sales at the local facility have grown nearly 70% in the past several years, and capital spending is approaching $7 million since 2004. But it’s in its human investment where the company has seen the most growth: from 627 employees in 2004, to 871 today, for a growth rate of nearly 40% in just three years.

Of course, a company like Eaton Sumter offers a full slate of employee benefits and programs, from its Educational Assistance Program that pays for education relevant to the workers’ jobs, to financial planning workshops. Eaton Sumter also offers reimbursement for gym memberships, diversity awareness programs, a variable pay plan and Employee Involvement Team where workers take the lead in planning events and activities for themselves and their company. Eaton Sumter also offers an employee recognition program known as E-Star, an annual employee survey so workers can share their thoughts, and a computer lab for employees to use as they like.

Eaton Sumter is also very involved in the local community, and participates in too many programs and activities to mention, some of which are the United Way, the Chamber of Commerce and various recreational programs. But the company’s commitment to making the world a little greener stands out: it participates in numerous recycling programs and the Adopt-a-Highway program. Eaton Sumter recently instituted the “Change a Light, Change the World” program in which employees are given free compact fluorescent light bulbs if they agree to do two things to help improve the environment. Additionally, Eaton reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 5% in 2007, with more reductions planned.


Both of Sumter’s Kaydon plants made headlines in 2006 with announced expansions totaling $26.7 million and the creation of 87 new jobs. Kaydon’s growth at the two local plants is fueled by innovation and response to global concerns, and the two Sumter plants manufacturer parts for both defense technology and alternative energy applications. 

Kaydon Plant #4, located on US 15 South, has increased revenue by 20% in just a year, while Plant #12 on Corporate Circle has grown revenue by 13%. Plant #4 invested $6.8 million last year gearing up to supply parts for the renewable energy industry, while Plant #12 invested $10 million. Plant #4 has grown its local workforce by 57%, while Plant #12 has grown its employee base 26%. Combined, the two plants have a payroll of about $7.4 million annually.

Kaydon provides to its employees a host of benefits, including tuition reimbursement, a quarterly performance bonus, employee safety awards, discounts to the YMCA and stipends for personal protection equipment. Additionally, the company offers an annual employee picnic, and Employee of the Year awards, and a birthday recognition complete with the gift of Chamber Certifichecks.

The local Kaydon plants take their role in the community seriously as well, and both are members of the local Chamber, where they take active roles in the Chamber’s Environmental Committee. The plants participate in the Sumter Human Resource Management Association, the United Way, the American Heart Association Heartwalk, and the YWCA TWIN program. 


G&G Metal Fabrication is no stranger to the Manufacturer of the Year Awards, having won twice before. But with its move to a newer, larger facility and an investment of $1.2 million, it has made a return appearance. In 2007, the company moved from cramped, old 12,000 sq. ft. space on Lafayette Boulevard to a spacious 34,000 sq. ft. operation on Stamey Livestock Road. 

Established in Sumter in 1984, G&G was originally a commercial/industrial metal fabricator specializing in air handling systems for industrial companies and cotton gins. But with the downturn in both the furniture industry and agriculture, G&G diversified into the emergency vehicles market. Today the company specializes in design and fabrication of custom-built emergency service vehicle apparatus. The company also refurbishes and services fire equipment, emergency vehicles and supply equipment, and has designed, built and/or refurbished more than 350 fire and emergency service vehicles. 

G&G’s economic impact on the community is much larger than most 15-person operations. With total revenue of $3.4 million in 2007, the company returned about 47% directly to the community through supplies, interest on loans, business services and other outlays.

G&G takes care of its workers like few small businesses do. Its 15 employees all maintain residences in Sumter County, and the company pays an average yearly wage of $38,100, far higher than the local average manufacturing wage. The company offers full benefit packages, including paid vacation and personal time, and pays 100% reimbursement for education expenses related to the job. The company pays half of its workers’ health insurance premiums, and half of eligible spouse/family premiums after three years on the job. It also pays 100% of life insurance for its employees. Also, the company offers profit sharing and pay for time spent on juries.

G&G also seems larger than it is based on its contributions to the community. It’s owner and founder, Tom Garrity, is President of the Sumter Industrial Association and is a member of the Workforce Investment Board, the Chamber’s Education Committee and the Sumter CareerReadiness Center’s advisory board. G&G takes special interest in educational matters, and encourages visits and tours from Sumter’s schools. Employees of G&G are allowed special working hours to participate in community programs like the Sumter County Cultural Commission, the Sumter Little Theater and the Iris Festival.

The Manufacturers of the Year represent the best in Sumter’s manufacturing community, and all three of these companies deserve the praise this award highlights.

For their contributions to our economy, our culture and our community in general, the Manufacturers of the Year Selection Committee recognizes Eaton Sumter, Kaydon Plants #4 and #12, and G&G Metal Fabrication as the Large, Medium and Small Manufacturers of the Year, respectively.