Laurel Manufacturer Named Legendary
Wood’s Power-Grip, Co., Inc. in Laurel has been named by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Legacy Business. Dignitaries from SBA, which is celebrating its 70th Anniversary, presented the award to the Wood family at their plant on August 23, 2023.
As part of its 70th anniversary celebration, SBA named one Legacy Business, which got its start with SBA, in each of its 68 districts. Wood’s Powr-Grip Co. Inc., “who has made their mark nationally and on the international stage”, was selected from the Montana district, explained Brent Donnelly, Montana SBA District Director, who presented the award.
Started in 1947, by Howard Wood in his small automotive, electric and small engine repair shop, Wood’s Auto Electric, in Wolf Point, Wood’s Powr-Grip today is a 3rd generation family-owned business and world-wide leader that designs, manufactures and distributes to the world, a full line of hand-held vacuum cups, below-the-hook vacuum lifters and vacuum mounting cups that make materials handling and equipment mounting easier. Woods Powr Grip tools are sold in over 50 countries throughout the world.
The SBA’s Legacy Businesses recognize past or current small businesses that benefitted from SBA resources in their early stages. Wood’s Powr-Grip Co., Inc. was able to utilize SBA’s PPP program to maintain employment during the pandemic and has also utilized the State Trade Expansion Program for export grants.
Additionally, Faye Wood was instrumental in serving as a long-time mentor in SBA’s Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training (WNET) Program, which paired aspiring female business owners with experienced women in business in a year-long mentor-protégé education program.
Bryan Wood has also served on the board of directors for Big Sky Economic Development Authority who is the host agency for SBA’s Small Business Development Center, Veteran’s Business Outreach Center and Big Sky Finance, a 504 Certified Development Company.
Today, the SBA is building upon its success by providing billions of dollars in support to small businesses which has helped millions of small business owners build meaningful lifelong connections and help power their local economies
The now industry famous vacuum cup tool is based on the tool that Wood invented in the early 1960s, following his frustrations in trying to hold small engine valves during the lapping process. He designed and built the first Wood’s Powr-Grip Valve Grinder which became the base of Wood’s Powr-Grip tools that lift, hold and position a variety of smooth, nonporous materials such as glass, plastics, engine valves, sheet metal, solid surfacing, laminates, stone slabs and appliances. The original tool consisted of a small, spring-action vacuum pump mounted in a wooden handle, opposite a rubber suction cup which attached to the flat surface of an engine valve.
The company website states, “At first he (Wood) simply built these tools for himself and friends, but soon the general public was demanding the unique little tool. As the popularity of the Powr-Grip Valve Grinder grew, a glazier friend suggested Howard develop a vacuum cup for handling glass. Howard experimented and developed vacuum cups in a variety of sizes.”
“It wasn’t long before the glass industry took note of the invention. These cups possessed a unique red-line vacuum indicator on the pump that warned the user if vacuum loss occurred and a check ball that restored lost vacuum without breaking the cup’s grip. Neither of these features—the trademarks of today’s Powr-Grip vacuum cups—were available anywhere else in the world at that time.”
“Howard began manufacturing vacuum cups for glass handling in 1963, incorporated the business in 1964, and obtained a patent for his design in March of 1966. The cups were first introduced to the American market by traveling salesmen. As popularity grew, the vacuum cups appeared in national and international glass handling equipment catalogs.
“In the late 60’s, Howard developed and patented a battery-powered, sealed foam vacuum lifter for use with overhead cranes and hoists. Capable of handling loads up to 600 lbs., this design was the first of many below-the-hook vacuum lifters.
“Howard died in Wolf Point on January 28, 1983 at the age of 73. The company moved from Wolf Point to a larger facility in Laurel, Montana in 1990 and maintained Howard’s founding principle of ‘doing the right thing’ for customers, employees, and everyone who comes into contact with WPG products.”
Today Woods Powr-Grip employs 140 people in their 72,500 sq. ft. facility in Laurel.