Formetco’s story begins with a hardworking Pennsylvania farm boy whose courage and determination helped galvanize an industry. Nearly 50 years ago, in 1968, our founder Larry Garrett was working for Armco Steel when they decided to sell their entire billboard division. Although many people at the time saw this as a risky venture, Mr. Garrett looked past his initial apprehension and saw something they couldn’t – potential.
With 15 years of sales experience and a Masters in metallurgy, his extensive knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit made him the perfect candidate to make an offer and assume any risk. An agreement was reached with Armco on a Friday and by Monday morning, a business phone had been installed in the Garrett’s basement. He decided to name his new business Formetco (Formed Metals Company) as a memento of a past forged in American-made steel. Of course, the hard part now was deciding how to tell Mrs. Garrett.
“MY WIFE DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT AND SHE WAS QUITE SHOCKED. IT TOOK ABOUT 15 YEARS BEFORE SHE EVER FORGAVE ME.” – LAWRENCE H. GARRETT
With Mr. Garrett managing the sales calls and Mrs. Garrett managing everything else, Formetco officially opened its doors in March. Ever the industrialist, Mr. Garrett understood that in business there is only one boss, one determiner of success: The Customer. Without any, Mr. Garrett immediately began looking for Formetco’s first buyer and soon set his sights on one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the South, Creative Displays. Creative was owned by Lewis Manderson Jr., a man renowned for his passion, intensity and Paul “Bear” Bryant style business approach. An equally savvy businessman, Mr. Manderson was not one to make important decisions lightly. He had purchased Armco faces previously and, after much discussion with Mr. Garrett, ultimately agreed to order through Formetco as long as his trusted Operations Manager agreed as well. When Mr. Manderson’s advisor arrived, any anxiety Mr. Garrett had was instantly alleviated. The Operations Manager turned out to be Mr. Garrett’s US Army Tank Commander from 20 years earlier!
Mr. Garrett left Creative Displays that day with a year’s worth of poster panel orders paid in full and the first of his many lifelong customers. That was then and today Formetco has grown into the largest outdoor advertising manufacturer and supplier in the US – all thanks to the man who had the vision and courage to build a company from the ground up. Formetco meant family to him and that’s something that has never changed. His daughters, Maggie and Laurieann, joined Formetco’s management team after graduating college and are still part of it today. In fact, our five chief executives have over 150 years of combined industry experience at Formetco, including the company’s first employee, our EVP of Corporate Relations. But for most of us, our gracious, cordial and fair founder will always be more than just a suit – he is our father, our mentor and our friend. And even though it’s been half a century since Formetco began, we are proud to honor his memory by maintaining the high standards he set so many years ago: quality products, honesty, and respect for those who make our business possible – You.