GLOVERSVILLE - Jim Taylor has come a long way since he started work at the business founded by his grandfather, Nelson A. Taylor.
The current Taylor Made Group chairman began his career cleaning out sewing machine debris left from making marine flags and awnings. Now, the company founded in 1908 to make canvas awnings has spread to 14 locations around the world, from New Zealand to England, under Taylor's leadership.
But during all that time, the headquarters remained in Gloversville, and Taylor Made is still a family business. Jim Taylor's brother, John, is a co-owner of Taylor Made and serves as treasurer. His sister, Barbara Taylor, managed a Taylor Made facility in Ireland, and her son is the president of Taylor Made Products.
(The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)
Jim Taylor, chairman of the Taylor Made Group, poses for a photo outside his office in Gloversville June 20.
Taylor said the company really took off with the introduction of a wraparound Plexiglass windshield in 1951 and the curved safety glass windshield introduced nearly a decade later.
"Plexiglass would scratch and get cloudy," Taylor said. "Tempered glass stayed clear."
Taylor said the awnings his father made for the Saratoga Springs harness track were used as a model for the later rigid roofing of the track seating area. The nautical flags sold by Taylor's father, Willard, to pay for representation at their first New York City boat show are still a part of the production schedule.
"My father sold the flags for $1 apiece at the show and brought home briefcases of $1 bills," Jim Taylor said.
The Taylor Made Group consists of two arms - Taylor Made Systems, which provides a variety of windshields, hatches, doors and other marine accessories for original equipment manufacturers, and the after-market consumer sales of boat covers, fenders, buoys, dock lockers and a myriad of other items produced by Taylor Made Products.
Jim Taylor admitted with the downturn in recent economic times, the company has shifted focus and is looking into other non-marine industrial glass products with a wider market for the future.
President Dennis Flint said one reason the company continues to thrive in a difficult economy is it's "known for quality, innovation and unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction."
At the facility off Harrison Street, Taylor Made Systems Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mike Oathout said the branch offers custom accessories, which include power-actuated sliding doors, glass vents and air intake-engine cooling system vents incorporated into windshield system design.
Jim Taylor said the company has a history of responding to requests for something new and innovative with,"We can do that. How many do you need?"
Flint said much of the credit for the success of the company rests on the shoulders of local employees, many of whom have worked for the company for decades. He said new ideas are encouraged on a regular basis, and 14 new patents have been applied for this year with five patents approved in 2007. Worldwide, Taylor made employs more than 1,500 people.
Taylor Made Products Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dave Karpinski said more items are being warehoused at the manufacturer's site for direct shipping to consumers through secondary sales outlets. With "just in time" production and delivery - along with consolidation of shipments - time, energy and spiraling fuel costs in shipping are conserved, he said.
Oathout said the integrated manufacturing processes at Taylor Made Systems allow many different items to be produced simultaneously with self-monitoring of production by various teams responsible for everything from design concept, engineering, prototype production and final testing and manufacture. Even the catalog design of product offerings is done in-house.
"One of our customers can tell us they need a sign made for the following day," Karpinski said.
That design can be sent over the Internet and printed by the customer on-site to be hung immediately.
Over the years, some competing companies have been acquired by Taylor Made. Some manufacturing procedures that were once outsourced are done in-house to streamline production and customer service.
Jim Taylor said that although the company has donated to community facilities such as Nathan Littauer Hospital, and he has been on the board of directors for the Fulton County YMCA, Taylor Made prefers to keep a low profile and contribute quietly to local causes.
"We try to be a good corporate neighbor," he said.
His stepson, Jeff Smith, now working with marketing and overseeing the 100th anniversary celebration, noted many in the community don't know what Taylor Made does.
"Some people may still think we mainly make awnings and a few marine accessories," he said.
He said the company has more than 200 commercial customers worldwide and is the only supplier of windshield systems for Sea Ray, a boat maker, and produces the largest curved glass windshields for companies such as Hatteras Marine. The company also developed the first stainless-steel, one-piece windshield systems.
Karpinski and Oathout said with the economy in flux, the variety of products and services offered by the Taylor Made Group keep the company viable.
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.