Local company helps S. Florida


September 16, 1992|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

When Jim Vuncannon heard about Hurricane Andrew slamming into South Florida three weeks ago, he knew he had to start finding generators and finding them fast.

Mr. Vuncannon, the project manager for Johnson & Towers Inc., knew the Baltimore County company would be called on to supply diesel-powered generators. Within 48 hours after the hurricane hit, the company had located 50 generators and put them on trucks headed for the stricken area.

"We knew from the magnitude of the storm that they were going to need generator sets," Mr. Vuncannon said. And that was not the last of the orders for this company, which distributes, customizes, rebuilds and services diesel engines.

Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Johnson & Towers has shipped 103 diesel-powered generators, worth about $2 million, to Florida. Ranging in size from 50 kilowatts to 400 kilowatts, they are used to provide power to the emergency tent cities, fire houses, police stations and public schools.

Only about one-quarter of the generators came from the company's inventory. The rest came from other distributors around the country, with Johnson & Towers coordinating the process.

The company has also fielded a three-man team in Florida to oversee the delivery and installation of the generators. In one case, fuel tanks were missing from some of the generators, so the Johnson & Towers workers went to a local welding shop and had them make the necessary tanks using 55-gallon drums. Another Baltimore area company assisting Johnson & Towers in its effort to supply Florida's power needs was Pritchard Brown, a division of C. King Inc.

Pritchard Brown, a company that specializes in making aluminum structures for generators and electrical equipment, shipped 11 aluminum housings worth about $27,000, to Florida for Johnson & Towers generators, said Charles C. Gears, vice president of Pritchard Brown.

While the action has slacked off some now, Johnson & Towers is expecting more orders for Florida and 17 yellow diesel engines were lined up yesterday on the company's shop floor waiting to be converted into 50 kilowatt generators.

Responding to emergencies -- both large and small -- is routine for Johnson & Towers.

The company headquarters are in a 90,000-square-foot building in Middle River near the Martin Marietta plant. It has a local work force of about 90 and another 110 workers in its four branches in Beltsville, Cambridge, Mount Laurel, N.J., and Wildwood, N.J.

Founded in 1926 in Philadelphia, the company moved its headquarters to the Baltimore area in the 1960s. It is an authorized dealer for Detroit Diesel, Allison Transmission, Perkins Engines and Alco.

About 40 percent to 49 percent of the company's business is with federal and state agencies. The remainder is with private companies in the trucking, construction and marine businesses.

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