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Founded by Henry Sturges, Sturges Manufacturing, Inc. began producing suspenders in Utica, NY in 1909. Today, Sturges is an ISO-9001 certified manufacturer of custom-designed engineered straps and webbing for the safety, firefighting, military and mountain climbing industries. Sturges is renowned for its outstanding performance in quality, value and customer service, and recognition from customers across the world is evident from the foyer full of awards and plaques.
Leading the company into the 21st century is President Rick Griffith. Over 38 years ago, Rick joined Sturges and in 2000, he transitioned from one of the owners to the majority owner. Within a year, Rick’s son Tyler came on board for new market development. The father and son leadership team has been good for both the family and the business.
“I think working with my son is the greatest thing going,” said Rick Griffith. “He has come in here and taken a whole different look at things with a completely different perspective.”
Sturges has been able to achieve an advantage over competitors by designing innovative solutions for its customers, with two patents on file and two more pending. The company just received a patent this month on a energy-absorbing webbing that is designed to reduce the shock for workers falling from heights, such as construction workers or window-washers.
In 2004, the company invested over $100,000 to build a testing lab inside one of its three buildings. Since the lab acts as an independent facility within the company, Sturges has applied for it to be certified as an ISO 17025 test lab. The ability to conduct internal quality control testing has made Sturges’s webbing and straps even more marketable. With a continued increase in foreign demand for its engineered products, particularly in Canada and Mexico, exporting activity has increased significantly over the past several years.
Selling to the federal government was once a strong source of revenue for Sturges; during World War II, the company sold over two million rifle slings to the military for U.S. soldiers. The number of government contracts received by Sturges had slowed over recent years, and in 2009 Tyler Griffith sought assistance to improve sales from the NYS Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Procurement Assistance Center located at SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica.
The SBDC Procurement Assistance Center’s Government Contracting Coordinator, Roxanne Mutchler, provided training in accessing technical data packages, qualified product and manufacturer lists and federal bidding opportunities.
Sturges hired Patrick Fiegl as a government sales representative the same year and attended the Rochester Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) matchmaker in 2010. With a renewed emphasis on procurement, government sales have once again increased. Sturges recently was awarded a contract from the U.S. Army Pine Bluff Arsenal to manufacture over 40,000 straps for mortar shells.
“We contacted the SBDC to learn what we needed to do to obtain government contracts and how to expand our presence,” said Tyler Griffith, vice president. “We continue to turn to the SBDC when we run into a roadblock.”