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Going with the flow

LUMBERTON — Martin Gibbons, Robeson County’s Industrialist of the Year, never thought he would end up in Lumberton owning and operating companies that specialize in industrial ball valve and automation equipment, as well as pipeline strainers and check valves.

Gibbons, the president of Titan Flow Controls and Flo-Tite Inc., is originally from Queens, N.Y. Before becoming involved in his present business, he worked with John Hancock Life Insurance and sold property for a development company located in Grand Bahamas Island.

In 1974, Gibbons arrived in Lumberton to take a position with the company that employed his wife, Mueller Steam Specialty. Mueller Steam specialized in the industrial valve and strainer business.

After working a few years in various positions with Mueller, Gibbons started his own business and worked as an independent sales representative for Mueller. He later created his own company in Columbia, S.C., that designed and manufactured industrial process ball valves and automation equipment.

Eventually Gibbons sold his South Carolina company to another valve company, and returned to Lumberton, where he created Titan Flow Control in 2001. Today that company has approximately 40 employees.

Flo-Tite Inc. was created in 2004 and currently employs about 20 people. According to Gibbons, the company handles sales of approximately $10 million a year.

Flo-Tite is not just a company that sells valves of all kinds and sizes. It’s a company that custom designs valves to meet the specific needs of customers.

“Where we differ from other valve companies is that we basically are a problem-solver. We will solve for customers some of the problems others won’t even consider,” said Robert M. Donnelly, Flo-Tite’s vice president of marketing. “We are innovators in the valve market industry and are getting known in the industry as a problem-solver. That is primarily because of Martin and his knowledge of valve technology.”

Donnelly said that Flo-Tite provides products to any company that utilizes valves, including the oil, chemical, waste-water treatment, pharmaceutical and food-processing industries.

“We like to say that we control the flow,” Donnelly said.

Currently Flo-Tite works out of a 40,000-square-foot warehouse and valve automation center located on 21st Street in Lumberton. The company plans to open another facility in Lumberton soon.

Gibbons said that his company was successful in the past year despite a bad economy. He said that with company expansion in early 2013, he expects the trend to continue.

“We now have an opportunity to expand our business in Lumberton,” Gibbons said. “We aim to be recognized as an important company in major industries.”

Flo-Tite already is exporting and importing products from around the world. In addition to the United States, the company does business with customers in China, Taiwan, Chile, Canada and European nations.

“We sell our products in every part of the globe,” Gibbons said.

Although his companies have been located and operating out of Lumberton since 2001, Gibson said that his being named Robeson County’s Industrialist of the Year on Tuesday’s is the first time that they have been recognized by the local community for their success.

“I was honored to receive the Industrialist of the Year award,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to be recognized by the people in this part of the world.”

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