DeGorter Inc. Celebrates 100 Years in Business

In 1922, a hopeful Belgian named Daniel DeGorter had big dreams. He had recently moved to the United States and quickly made a name for himself by importing glass from a major European supplier. That was the start of DeGorter Inc., which today is one of the glass industry’s major machinery and equipment suppliers. This year, as the company celebrates its 100th anniversary, the DeGorter family continues to own and manage
the business. USGlass magazine asked family members to look back on the company’s history, and ahead to what’s moving them forward.

Becoming DeGorter Inc.

Originally specializing in sheet and rough rolled glass, Daniel DeGorter found prestige in America. He was involved in various no-table projects, including glass installation for 375 Park Avenue in New York, more famously known as the Seagram Building, and helped establish the modern glazed skyscraper. Daniel also worked on the United States Airforce Academy in Colorado Springs and the Heinz Research Facility in Pittsburgh. He also served as the president of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce, and developed relationships inside the U.S. for Belgian companies.

Over the years, Daniel made many connections worldwide with companies such as Saint-Gobain in France, Bystronic in Switzerland, Benteler in Germany and Schiatti Angelo in Italy. Not only was he able to leverage these relationships in his own business, but he also played a pivotal role in establishing roots in the U.S. for those partners.

Glass companies began manufacturing float glass in the U.S. in the 1960s. In 1968 Daniel stopped importing glass and started to import machinery. He started with fabrication equipment, working closely with Italian manufacturer Schiatti Angelo, and made strategic product changes to keep up with the evolving industry. His efforts made his company one of the four leading manufacturers in the machinery market covering the United
States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with more competition following in the 1980s.

Daniel DeGorter died in 1969. His son, John, took over the business and continued the transition into machinery.

“My grandfather (John DeGorter) used to say that at the time, the business was just him and ten secretaries,” vice president Pete DeGorter remembers. In the mid and late 1970s, John’s children Dan and Peter joined the business. That was when they started to see an operational shift from just machinery and equipment sales, to also service and support.

“Service was in the DNA of our business. As we have never manufactured products ourselves, we’ve known that with the highest service level, we can provide a greater value proposition than our partners expect. It was a natural decision. John DeGorter had the foresight to know large capital equipment purchases would not be made every day, or even every couple years, as he wanted to provide the most reliable solutions,” says Pete. “It was necessary to have our own people install, train and repair equipment for our partners’
products to operate.”

In 1989, DeGorter moved its operation to North Carolina from New York to keep up with the increasing competition. The company moved into a larger space an increase its service, steadily leading to today, where they have again outgrown their space and are considering their next steps.

Challenging Times

Over the past 100 years, DeGorter has endured its share of challenges. Due to the glass industry’s close ties to construction, the Great Recession in the mid-2000s was hard. With low volumes of glass going out, companies were not buying new equipment. And when they did, they searched for the most affordable options.

“Companies that had worked with us for years, sometimes decades, would call and say they couldn’t afford a $100,000 piece of equipment. Instead, they settled for a $30,000 machine that could help them get by for a few years,” says Dan DeGorter, president.

The unexpected death of Peter DeGorter in 2018 was a sudden and difficult change for the company. His son, Pete, stepped in to fill his father’s place. “When DeGorter as a team can get through my father’s death, 2007 and 2008 and an intense influx of competition, while they’re all different, [these challenges] prove that we can make it through whatever the next challenge might be,” says Pete.

The Next Chapter

What’s the next century look like for DeGorter? The company plans to maintain family ownership, offering opportunities to those interested family members.

DeGorter is involved with many types of machinery and has seen significant growth in lamination.

“Lamination is the future of glass processing. Putting things in between the glass, making glass smarter, implementing technology into glass: that’s what we have to look forward to,” says Pete.

DeGorter plans to focus on growing naturally in the future. Pete says they will continue with their current product lines with an eye on quality over quantity and being the best they can be for those they support.

48 Years of Partnership

One of DeGorter’s longest and closest partnerships is with Schiatti Angelo. The relationship dates back to 1974. Over the past 48 years, both companies have experienced challenges but have always supported each other.

“We have DeGorter to thank for many things. Thanks to their vision of the market and close proximity to customers, we have been able to develop new machine models,” says Silvia Villa, who handles sales and marketing for Schiatti Angelo. “Thanks to their reliability, we managed to achieve higher and more ambitious goals. Thanks to mutual trust and respect for confidentiality, we are true partners that share the same values, ideals and philosophy of work.

Tyler Jubar is a staff writer for USGlass magazine.

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