After eight decades, Shipp Belting has no worries about business hitting a dry patch.
Think of a product, any product, says general manager Chase Sligh, a 27-year company veteran, and picture it not riding on a conveyor belt somewhere along the line, be it during the making, the packing or the delivering.
“Do I feel secure about our market? You bet I do,” said Sligh by phone from the factory at 123 S. Industrial Drive, near the retailing strip that includes Outback Steakhouse. Shipp Belting was founded in 1938, has moved along Franklin Avenue during relocations down the years, and recently went through a rebranding to broaden its appeal and redefine its mission.
The upgrade included computer enhancements to the process and an updated website, which promises that company basics would not change.
It knows a thing or two, to paraphrase the TV ad, because it has built, installed or repaired conveyors in plants all over Texas and the surrounding states. But Sligh said Shipp has escaped from any rut it may have occupied and offers goods and services beyond moving things from here to there.
He estimated Shipp ships 750,000 linear feet of belting annually, the length of about 2,300 football fields. Longtime clients include TYMCO, the Waco-based maker of street and parking lot sweepers sold internationally; and Fallas Automation on Imperial Drive. Grocery giant H-E-B uses Shipp-built conveyors, says company president Greg Ogden, as does the local Mars Wrigley Confectionery plant.
“In San Antonio, H-E-B has a huge operation, all these warehouses in a row where they have meat items, bakery goods, snack foods, pharmacy items, products from their milk plant,” Ogden said.
“One thing about that, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that if a belt gets nicked up or dirty, they have to throw it out and order more belting. Mars probably is our biggest customer. We’ve been selling to them since they opened here in the 1970s. Their demands are so varied. We also do a lot of business with Owens Corning in Waxahachie.”
People seldom leave Shipp Belting. The 26 staffers working there now have 470 years combined experience.
“The Ogden family takes good care of us,” said Sligh, who would not discuss the specifics of wages at the family-owned company but did say longevity speaks volumes about pay and benefits.
“A lot of people working here have a background similar to that of a woodworking craftsman,” said Sligh. “This is a measurement business, and our people apply that skill set to our product. It’s hard to find someone with a background in belting. Attention to detail is at the core of our business. We’ve had a lot of success hiring people from the community of West. Not to bash anyone from Waco, but that approach has worked well for us.”
Raw materials used to make conveyor belts and other products primarily come from domestic venues, but China provides most hard rubber, said Ogden, who warily watches negotiations between that country and the United States. He said he now pays a 10 percent tariff on hard rubber, and a deadline looms that could see the levy rise another 10 percent.
“I don’t believe it will happen,” he said. “’I think a breaking point is coming.”
Belting comes in all shapes, sizes and materials, including plastic, silicon, teflon and polyvinyl chloride. The rolls typically arrive at Shipp Belting in 72-inch-wide rolls, and the plant ships out finished products by common carrier each day. It maintains a 40-hour-a-week, one-shift operation.
“Our revenue continues to grow each year,” Ogden said. “Our primary market is Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. We also offer a line of motorized pulleys, and we have four or five guys designated and trained to actually install belts in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio. We send someone on one of these projects almost every day.”
An unusual source of orders is the North American Dog Agility Council. Its members are fans of Shipp’s “Dog Agility Matting,” which is described as high-quality rubber matting with a textured grip surface for dog agility equipment. It reportedly is gentler on the paws than gritty sandpaper type paint-on products, according to Shipp’s online promotional material, which claims the product can be used as the base material for A-frames, teeters, pause tables and dog walks.
“We get calls for this from around the country,” said Ogden. “It does not represent a huge part of our business, but it is our most unusual.”
Dale Edward Shipp founded Shipp Belting. The Texas A&M graduate saw the need for what was called “white food grade belting” during World War II, when the military was a heavy user of black rubber. He collaborated with four other companies to launch production before dying suddenly in 1952.
Shipp’s stepson, W.C. (Bill) Ogden, became company president as the industry began to broaden. Greg Ogden became president in 1992.