MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) - A Muskegon-area company says it has a lighter, safer way to cover manholes in city streets and while other manufacturers are slowing down, demand for GMI's composite manhole covers is keeping the company busy.
GMI was started in the 1920's as a button company. GMI's button work has long passed. Now the company focuses much of its attention on composite manhole covers. Owner Bob Brady says GMI has experienced success ever since launching the product more than a decade ago. Sales are rising 15 to 18 percent a year
"The first one we made was 1993 and it was only 12 inches in diameter," said Brady. "By 1995, we were making covers over 44 inches in diameter."
Brady says composite molders that were tied too closely to the auto and boating industries are seeing troubles. But GMI got in on the new growth industry early.
Brady says he gives much of his company's success to the strong West Michigan manufacturing industry. He says the equipment and materials used to produce his company's composite covers comes from other Muskegon-area businesses.
"The composites industry has seen inroads in civil engineering," explained Brady. "That is what we have seen as our growth area."
Composite covers have 1/10th of the weight of a traditional cast-iron cover, but they're just as strong and much easier to handle. The cost for composites is slightly more, but municipalities can save money in the long run.
With the old manhold covers, "They have to take heavy trucks with cranes," explains Brady. (They need) "two man teams to open a manhole, not necessary to do the work. If these (covers) stop one back injury, the city would save that money by preventing on injury."
The covers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors and can even be personalized. GMI covers are being used across the country and later this year, right here in its own backyard, Roosevelt Park.
Roosevelt Park will use install GMI covers this summer and with an estimated 200 million manholes in the United States alone, the market is just being tapped.