GLI Pool Products Celebrates 10 Years of Growth

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – “It’s a culture shock,” every time Larry Schwimmer travels to Youngstown and visits GLI Products Inc., the manufacturer of pool products of which he is silent partner in the Ohio Works Industrial Park.

“I’ve never seen a company where it’s like a family. Everybody loves each other. They have fun. They thank me over and over again,” he says. “It’s a good feeling.”

Schwimmer also owns Swimline Corp. in Edgewood, New York, which – like GLI – makes swimming pool liners but is best known for its line of pool toys. “We have a completely different culture at Swimline. People come to work and they go home,” he says. “Here it’s different.”

So different, in fact, that on this day – July 1, GLI has closed it factory so that all 280 employees are enjoying a paid day off at the company’s annual picnic, playing corn hole, taking part in carnival games, lobbing sandbags at a dunk tank and winning prizes that included vacations in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Disney World in Florida.

“We do this every year but it’s the first time we’ve done it to this magnitude because it’s our 10-year anniversary,” said Gary Crandall, the other co-owner of GLI and its president and CEO. “The party was supposed to start at noon and, in typical GLI fashion, it started at 11 a.m. because all the employees got here early.”

Crandall and Schwimmer founded GLI in 2006 after purchasing certain assets of the former Cantar Pool Products of Youngstown, then a division of Polyair Inter Pack Inc. of Toronto, Canada.

At the time, Cantar operated a plant in the city’s Performance Place industrial park. GLI hired some Cantar employees and started its operations at a former insulated glass manufacturing plant at the Ohio Works Industrial Park. Polyair continued to produce polyethylene foam packaging until 2010 when the plant closed and its operations were moved to Kentucky.

GLI makes swimming pool liners and protective covers, each custom built to specifications and sold through wholesale and retail networks.

As Crandall says — and his company echoes in its marketing materials — “We bring families together to enjoy their backyards and we protect them.” By this measure of pool liner and cover production, GLI has “brought together 359,000 families in their backyards since we started the company in 2006 and kept 119,000 families safe,” he said.

GLI does not disclose annual sales.

When asked to characterize its growth, Crandall noted the company initially employed 65 and today employs 280. “We have been progressing on a path where we have never had a year under double-digit growth. The business is now four times the size it was when we purchased it,” he said.

“From the beginning, our mantra has been ‘Why Not Youngstown, Ohio!’ ” he declared during brief remarks at the picnic. It’s a reflection of city leaders – “always lending a helping hand,” he said – but more particularly an affirmation of the GLI workforce.

“Thank you for never missing a deadline, for 972 days of no lost-time accidents and for winning every BWC award there is,” Crandall said.

The company prides itself on rapid, guaranteed turnarounds, he explained during an interview.

“We have broken the trend in our industry of five- and six-week lead time,” he said. “No matter how customized the product is, we manufacture and ship it in 72 hours. We have competitors all over the world, and we ship our products all over the world. But we ship them faster. That’s why we’re drinking out of their milkshakes.”

The manufacturing technology that GLI employs is both simple and complex, said Mike Loccisano, vice president of operations.

Pool safety covers are produced with industrial sewing machines while pool liners are “made with radio frequency machines that bond the vinyl together. We’re able to train people up and teach them everything they need to know,” he said.

“Our CAD [computer-assisted design] systems are very new in terms of technology and ability because the products are becoming more customized.”

To get the orders out within 72 hours, overtime is mandatory and is often scheduled with short notice, according to online job postings.

“We spend more time with them here than we do with our own families at homes,” said Terry Spack. But she doesn’t mind. In fact, she’s been with GLI since it started and its predecessor, Cantar.

“They are generous. They treat us really well. They’re amazing people – like family,” she said.

Spack started as a sewer and cutter, moved up to trainer and, “I’m now a lead and trainer.”

Likewise Terry Clark has moved up the ranks. “The benefits are good, the people are very nice to each other and they are very understanding,” she said.

“Every year we have a very lovely picnic but this year, this one is the best.”

Pictured: GLI “founders,” those who have been with the company all 10 years, gather for a group picture at the company picnic July 1. Seated in the center of the second row are co-owners Gary Crandall and Larry Schwimmer.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.