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Mark Carter

Modern industries, be it construction, mining, or off-shore drilling, depend on high-quality hydraulics. Those industries worldwide have come to rely on hydraulic products produced at Swanson Industries Inc. just south of Morgantown.

Swanson Industries Inc.

“Everything we do is related to hydraulics,” explained Swanson Vice President Mark Carter. “We manufacture, remanufacture, repair and distribute hydraulics. For example, we are the sole, worldwide supplier to Caterpillar for their remanufactured hydraulic cylinder program. The mining industry and off-shore oil production also are a very big part of our business.”

Swanson Industries was started in 1964 by Paul Swanson and two others to serve the mining industry in the Appalachian coalfields, providing chrome plating for various types of equipment. By 1990, it had grown from three employees to 47 and become two related companies. By 2011, Swanson had grown to 800 employees and become 12 companies spread across six states and Shanghai, China, and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The move into hydraulics was the trigger for the company’s growth.

“We had a lot of success in delivering high-quality, highly engineered hydraulic systems, so we gained worldwide recognition as a major supplier of those products,” Carter said. “We’ve been able to transfer that success across multiple industries that we serve. While the roots of the company were strictly mining, and while that remains a major part of our business, we’ve expanded our name brand into heavy equipment, construction, offshore oil, forestry, mobile equipment — and we still do the chrome plating.”

Swanson Industries’ Morgantown location is a big reason to the company’s success, according to Carter. “When Paul Swanson and his partners started the plating business, they saw the demand for that and no nearby suppliers, so he started it here. Since then, our location has pretty much been the right spot for us to be in the mining region for the eastern United States.

“Also, we’re adjacent to the interstate. All of our products are moved by truck or other type of large vehicle transport. Even if our products are going worldwide, they leave here on the interstate and then make their way to the closest port.”

West Virginia’s workforce is also a big advantage.

“Of our 800 employees, 447 of them, more than half our worldwide workforce, are located here in West Virginia. We’ve had strong success attracting and retaining a quality workforce. They have the ability to grow and adapt constantly to extend their skills. The customer requirements have changed considerably over time and our workers have been very willing to take that on and adapt to whatever new challenges they are required to perform.”

Another advantage to doing business in West Virginia is the assistance that is available, according to Carter.

“We’ve had a long-term relationship with the Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce program. We’ve taken advantage of WVEDA loans and we have worked with the export service group that has helped us locate partners in other parts of the world. They’ve helped us to vet them. We’ve been able to successfully connect with so many different markets, whether it be a different area of the world or a completely different industry.”

Quality of product, quality of workforce, quality of location and assistance – these are all important to a successful business. Carter says West Virginia also offers something just as important: quality of life.

“It’s a very balanced lifestyle. There’s plenty to do. It’s easy to get around. We have a lot of things a big city can offer without the disadvantages of a big city. It’s a good place to raise a family. I was born and raised in Beckley and came to the WVU College of Engineering, graduated, left the state for a few years and came back. I’ve been here for the past 27 years. If anyone who has left the state ever gets the opportunity to come back, take advantage of it.”

Carter often travels around the world on business. He finds that West Virginia is nearly always nearby, in spirit.

“One of my favorite things to do, wherever I am in the world, if there’s a band in a bar, is to get them to play ‘Country Roads.’ I’ve never been anywhere yet where they didn’t know that song. From Norway to Beijing, China to Brazil, that’s probably the most recognizable thing people think about West Virginia if they’re not from here.”

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