Founded in 1954, Press-Seal Gasket Corporation has grown from a small Fort Wayne operation to a company with international reach, selling to customers in Israel, Sweden, Norway, Mexico, Canada, Japan and some Caribbean countries.
“When I first started as a salesman in 1978, I was just the 13th employee,” relays Chairman and CEO James Skinner, adding the company now has 138 on staff.
Skinner explains the company was initially founded by a concrete pipe producer who wasn’t satisfied with the quality of rubber gaskets available at the time. Ten years later following some deaths in his family, two attorneys serving as the company’s counsel ended up owning the company. They struggled to produce a reliable accounting report, so they called IBM to send a computer salesman out in 1964 to straighten it out.
“My father (Hank Skinner) was working for IBM and was sent out to Press-Seal and explained IBM could not sell them a computer because the company was too small, and the cost of the computer would have been half of its annual revenues.”
He did provide them with a bookkeeping system and a list of accountants who could keep it straight.
“Basically, they were so impressed with him that they offered him part of the business – to come in as general manager,” Skinner says. “Then over the next eight years, my father purchased the interest of the other two stockholders. Since 1964, our family has been involved in the management of the company, and I purchased it from my parents in 1984.”
Over time, the company has expanded from mainly pipe gaskets and pipe-to-manhole connectors, and in 1990 expanded into extrusion and molding. Press-Seal has also added a tool and die operation.
“That’s a similar story to how the company started,” Skinner notes. “I was unable to get good delivery from local tool and die shops because we were a small company and all the larger companies in the Fort Wayne market were their priority. So I bought a small tool and die shop in Columbia City and turned it from a small shop that was servicing the foundry and automotive industries to a shop that focuses on medical, aerospace, automotive and higher tech things. It’s now a fully integrated shop…
“It allows us to take a different tack on how things are made,” he adds, noting that stainless parts are a specialty of the operation. “While a lot of tool and die shops are going out of business these days, we are thriving. We find a lot of customers are in a lot of pain in terms of non-delivery and (a shop) not understanding the customers’ needs.”
When asked how the company coped with challenging economic times – namely in 2009 – Skinner discusses adjustments that were made.
“Because the gasket business is so connected to new housing, we peaked out in 2006,” he says. “When we saw the market declining, we made some immediate adjustments. Our business went down about 45% over the next two years. So we have branched out and gone into rail and tunnel products, as well as aerospace and other markets. We found niches where our production capability could expand and provide solutions for customers.
“One example is the truck door seal on the back of semi-trailers. There’s an existing problem with trailer doors leaking, so we’ve designed and implemented a system that is a complete picture frame seal for each of the two doors that swing shut. It’s a water tight solution for them… and we’re making inroads because it solves the customers’ problems. There are a lot of wet claims in the freight industry, and those are expensive claims to have. But this is right in our expertise – because it’s sealing."
Skinner sums up Press-Seal’s approach, sparking optimism for an even brighter future.
“We’ve had to go out and find markets,” Skinner asserts. “You can’t sit still or you’ll be passed by.”
If you’re in Indiana or beyond and want to know if Press-Seal can aid your sealing and gasket needs, be sure to reach out.