JGB has a role in country's defense

Central New York Business Journal
By Annemarie Kropf, Journal Staff

LIVERPOOL -- About a year and a half ago, J.G.B. Enterprises chief operating officer received an e-mail that reinforced his belief in his company. Originally from a survivor of the U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen, the e-mail detailed the explosion and the ensuing fire.

"He mentioned that he grabbed a [foam dispensing] fire fighting hose, which prevented the expansion of the fire," recounts Robert Zywicki, COO. "That particular hose, we make here." He adds that the mention of the hose was a small part of the e-mail, but it stood out in Zywicki's mind. "That hose helped prevent further loss of life," he says. "It really drove home the point that what we do make a difference and can save lives."

J.G.B. Enterprises's core business is fabricating hose assemblies for both commercial and military applications. The company also fabricates pumps and electrical control panels. Seventy percent of its business comes from various sectors within the Department of Defense. The commercial side consists of companies involved in different areas, such as construction, petroleum, environmental services, and original equipment manufacturing. The company has more than 2,500 customers worldwide. More than 80 percent are found outside New York State, Zywicki says. Some Central New York customers include the Carrier Corporation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Anheuser-Busch. Products include pressure washer hoses, used in car washes; snowmaking hoses, used by ski resorts; and hood-latch assemblies for Humvees.

Zywicki says that since the company is so diverse in its product line, competition is stronger in some areas than others. However, he says that in an industry dominated by mom-and-pop-shops, J.G.B. stands out, since it has grown to $30 million in annual revenue. "That's far outside of the normal realm," he adds. "We are one of the largest hose companies in the U.S. under one roof. Others have multiple branch locations."

Contracts have ranged from $500 to $2 million, Zywicki says. He adds that typically, a contract is $10,000 to $25,000. It takes about nine days to 120 days to complete an order.

"The military has been steady regardless of the administration, whether it's Democrat or Republican," Zywicki says. "Even in peacetime, there's a call for products to use in relief efforts." He adds that the company has history on more than 40,000 different national stock numbers with the Defense Department.

Though the company experienced tough times in 2001, Zywicki says the losses on the commercial side were offset by the gains on the military side. He adds that he sees downturns as an opportunity.

"Since people are less busy, they are more apt to sit with you, and more willing to listen to you," he says. "I treat it as an opportunity to reacquaint with old customers and obtain new customers."

Employees have been an important asset to the company, particularly in the sales end, Zywicki says. "Every year, we've grown and our head count has grown," he points out. "A key to our growth on the sales end is Stephon Starrantino, the vice president of sales." He adds that Martin Salinger, the government sales manager, is also an important member of the team.

Zywicki says that the Internet also has been a boon to sales. "[Our Web site] has generated a number of requests for quotations," he says, adding that recently a company in Trinidad and Tobago contacted them. "Hits have been increasing. It's business we wouldn't have had prior to the Web site."

While Zywicki says the Web site is still in its early stages, he adds that it has great potential.

Jay Bernhardt, the current owner of the company, started J.G.B. in 1977. Within five years, the business started working with the military. "By chance, the military sought us out," Zywicki says. "The military business opened up our horizons."

The facility has also expanded over the years. In 1985, J.G.B. fit in a 20,000-square-foot spot. In 1990, the company expanded to 50,000 square feet. In 1996, the company expanded to 65,000 square feet. That is now the square footage of the office and assembly space; the company built a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in 2001. "We built it primarily for larger military contracts that take up lots of space," Zywicki says. He adds that there are still seven unused acres available for further expansion.

Zywicki says that the company was strong before Sept. 11, 2001 - and has been doing greater since then.

"I have great satisfaction that we're assisting service men and women of the military in achieving their missions," he says. "Our hoses are going to Afghanistan. It's a very satisfying feeling."

Contact Kropf at akropf@cnybj.com