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KEY ACCOUNT: Longwood Elastomers

0902
 2012


Sam Wohlford is Longwood Elastomers' plant manager. He holds one of the company's smallest products, a rubber washer for sealing or cushioning, and stands in front of one of their largest, the Marine Fender bumper for large boats. (Sarah Beal photo)

By Kelley Shannon 

     Tugboat fenders, Harley-Davidson foot pegs, hog paddles. They’re among the scores of specialty rubber products the Longwood Elastomers plant in Brenham creates for use throughout the world.
Longwood, one of Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s large commercial customers, makes items of assorted sizes using a process called extrusion in which rubber is pushed through machinery and molded into a final product. It works a bit like a child’s Play-Doh factory, forming cylinders, discs and other shaped objects.
   “We build to order,” said plant manager Sam Wohlford. “We’re more of a custom manufacturer, so we have to be very, very flexible with what we do.”
    He attributes Longwood’s success in part to that ability to change course quickly when necessary to meet clients’ needs. Longwood is based in Greensboro, N.C. In addition to the Brenham facility, Longwood has two plants in Wytheville, Va., and one in Soria, Spain.
    The Brenham plant processes 4.1 million pounds of rubber annually and customers send an additional estimated 600,000 pounds of materials used in product assembly. Among Longwood’s most widely distributed products are hog paddles, for removing a hog’s hair during slaughter.
    These days Longwood is responding to growing demand for swellable packers used in oil and gas drilling. The long rubber tubes are customized for insertion into drill holes where hydraulic fracturing takes place. They swell when liquid is flushed in, sealing and isolating an area for gas extraction, Wohlford said.
    The increase in that oilfield business accounts for the Longwood plant doubling in employees over the past two years, up to 195 workers now, according to Wohlford. The plant is often in production six days a week and during the summer began moving to seven-day production for the swellable packers.
    Housed in two buildings, the 130,000-square-foot plant in Brenham uses an estimated 613,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month on average. That usage was expected to increase with the arrival of new equipment related to the oil and gas products.
    Bluebonnet has been working with Longwood by replacing transformers, providing an energy audit and discussing ways to upgrade to more energy efficient lighting, Wohlford said.
    Opened in 1981 under the ownership of Murray Rubber Co., the Brenham plant was later purchased by Gates Molded Products Co. Then in 1993, Longwood Industries bought the plant and expanded the items it produces.
Some employees have worked there for decades, but the company also looks for additional new staff from the Brenham area and provides hands-on training, said human resource manager Katrice Ellis, a longtime employee herself.
    “We are looking mostly for just a good work ethic,” she said. “We make so many different parts and products.”

One in a series of stories about Bluebonnet’s commercial members.



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