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Finding the perfect fit Family-owned manufacturing firm expands brand, N.J. operations by emphasizing its home-grown roots

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American Fittings CEO Allen Fischbein says the third-generation family-owned business tripled its production of electrical conduit fittings in the last two years.
American Fittings CEO Allen Fischbein says the third-generation family-owned business tripled its production of electrical conduit fittings in the last two years.

Allen Fischbein started heavily promoting his electrical conduit fittings as American made after noticing several years ago the United States was placing renewed emphasis on long-overlooked policies requiring domestic construction materials in federally funded building projects.

Fischbein, president and CEO of American Fittings Corp. and its sister company, Edgewater Manufacturing, said his company sought out government contractors to let them know his family-owned business could help them comply with "Buy American" policies.

The efforts have paid off. Combined revenue for the two companies grew from $17 million in 2008 to $24 million last year, and should reach more than $28 million this year, according to Fischbein. Nearly four dozen jobs have been added, and their facilities are growing, too. The companies, which operated out of two buildings that equaled a total of 40,000 square feet in Westwood, moved to a 90,000-square-foot facility in Fair Lawn eight months ago.

Fischbein said the business tripled its production in the last two years, and he expects to buy even more equipment soon, which means more workers will be needed to operate the machinery.

"It all depends on how the U.S. government enforces the 'Made in USA' and 'Buy American' regulations," he said, adding that the number of his employees has risen from 68 to at least 115 in the past 12 months. "All they have to do is have people comply with the regulations in effect. It would help grow all business, including small business, in America."

Fischbein took over the business from his late father, Henry, an engineer who started the business in 1947. Allen Fischbein's son, Dan Fischbein, vice president of manufacturing, and daughter Rachell Fischbein, vice president of operations, are also part of the management team.

The Fischbeins make one thing — electrical conduit fittings made with American steel. American Fittings sells to electrical distributors that sell directly to contractors, while Edgewater sells to major electrical equipment distributors and manufacturers such as Thomas & Betts and Emerson's EGS Electrical Group.

The company is one of the state's few original equipment manufacturers, according to Robert L. Loderstedt III, president and CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program Inc., a nonprofit working with small to midsize businesses. Loderstedt called American Fittings' growth "incredible," and said most manufacturers increase revenues when they win a large government contract, innovate or expand their product lines or "lean out" their manufacturing costs.

Fischbein said his products are superior to foreign-made fittings, but they are not always competitive in price because some governments, such as China and India, subsidize their manufacturers so prices are artificially lower. The Buy American program allows construction companies that build federal buildings, schools and other government-funded projects to pay a premium for domestic materials to offset the foreign subsidy, he said.

"Even though our fittings are more expensive than overseas, our customers save money because they never fail," he said.

The company's emphasis on Made in USA helped make a brand that was not widely known, grow "exponentially," said Bill Simmel, the company's marketing director.

"And we weren't just getting work from government contracts — we grew into mainstream projects," Simmel said.

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