by Dennis Dalman
New York City would likely be a big, leaky, soggy mess of a city if it were not for the DeZURIK company in Sartell.
That’s because DeZURIK manufactured to precise specifications all the valves that are used in the Big Apple’s water-distribution system.
That is one of the intriguing fun facts visitors learned when DeZURIK opened its plant to the public Sept. 22 for its 90th birthday party.
The big public turnout astonished DeZURIK employees. At least 1,750 people lined up for tours at the plant from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. And that was a conservative number, said a company spokesman, because many on the tour did not sign the registration sheets. Each tour group ranged in size from 30 to 50 people. The wide-eyed visitors, including many children, gaped at the giant valves in the plant, one of them 12 feet wide. And many in the tour groups remarked with awe in their voices the sheer size of the DeZURIK plant – more than 400,000 square feet. Some commented to tour guides they had driven past the place for years and never had any inkling DeZURIK was so big.
Visitors were treated to complimentary snacks and a free lunch.
These days, DeZURIK operates under the formal name of DeZURIK-APCO-HILTON (two of its partner firms, along with one named Willamette).
Each tour began with a verbal presentation and slide show by Scott Crane, DeZURIK’s chief financial officer. The company was founded in 1928 by Matt DeZurik of Sartell, a self-styled genius of a tinkerer and born inventor who worked for the Sartell St. Regis Paper Mill at that time. The paper mill was desperately in need of some sort of valve to regulate the flow of wood-pulp-and-water slurry vital for paper production. DeZurik decided to invent a valve just for that purpose. After tinkering in his garage, what he came up with revolutionized paper production, and that valve and its variations are still used nearly 100 years later in the paper-making industry. DeZurik then opened his own business in a brick building of only 2,400 square feet that still remains on the current DeZURIK site. Matt DeZurik was head of the company for about two decades. The company he founded became, along with the paper mill, one of the economic bedrocks of Sartell and remains so today even though the paper mill shut down after an explosion and death.
In 1944, DeZurik’s company stopped manufacturing valves for a time because of the pressing needs of World War II and instead made a lot of parts for army combat tanks.
Now locally owned
A series of acquisitions occurred starting in 1968 when Colorado Interstate acquired DeZURIK; in 1972 the plant was acquired by General Signal Corp.; in 2004 by SPX; and 14 years ago, the local Granite Equity Partners acquired the company. Granite Equity is a group of about a dozen local investment families well known as the owners of many large companies, such as Coborn’s, Ferche Millwork, Spee Dee Delivery, Viking Coca Cola and others. Granite Equity has ensured the company remains under local control. DeZURIK, 100 percent locally owned, is expected to have $200 million in annual sales by the end of 2018.
In 2011 and 2012, DeZURIK acquired the valve companies of APCO, Hilton and Willamette. There are four manufacturing plants in North America, with Sartell the biggest of them. The others are in Redmond, Wash., Houston, Texas, and Cambridge, Ont.
DeZURIK makes its sales via a worldwide network of independent representatives with a service center located in Marietta, Ga.
During his talk, Crane said the most important factor in the company’s success is and always has been its quality employees – in all areas of production, from design to shipping and handling, to welding. Employees are encouraged to connect with the larger community, and all volunteer for good causes such as United Way, YMCA, St. Cloud State University and the annual “Day of Caring” in the greater St. Cloud area.
DeZURIK can manufacture 120,000 valves annually, ranging in size from one-half inch to 12-feet wide and some weighing as much as 40 tons.
One of the informational stops on the tour was the engineering test lab where employee Craig Pundsack explained how valves are designed and then prototypes of them are made in two 3-D printing machines. The prototypes are then analyzed, fine-tuned, tested and pondered over by experts in all areas of the design and production. That way, Pundsack said, any kinks or flaws can be worked out before production begins, which he said is the surest way to ensure quality products and to prevent having to start the process all over again, from scratch, which would be a waste of money and time.
DeZURIK’s biggest sales are in valves for water and waste-water-treatment systems. Other kinds of valves are made for power plants, pulp and paper productions, mining operations, and refining and chemical processes.