Rural Missouri - January 2014 - (Page 28)
behind the meter
G.T. Carr, executive vice president of The Durham Co., holds one of the many products the company makes.
The Durham Co. keeps the power ﬂowing with quality electrical products
by Jim McCarty
very house has one, but few
people give it much thought.
Without it, the electricity
doesn't ﬂow. It's a meter base,
the metal box that houses the connection between your electric co-op's
lines and the ones inside your home.
In the decades following World
War II, electric cooperatives were
booming, working long hours in an
all-out effort to bring electricity to
everyone who wanted it. With two
wars causing shortages of poles and
wires, it wasn't until the late 1950s
that construction on new power lines
could move forward.
But electric co-ops needed more
than poles and wires to ﬁnish the job.
They also needed specialized equipment you couldn't just go to the corner hardware store and buy.
Enter Roy Durham. For years, he
worked as an engineer for the Binkley Manufacturing Co., which made
meter sockets for utilities. He thought
he could do the job better, so in 1959,
he founded The Durham Co. based in
Washington, Mo. He focused on the
growing electric cooperative market
and started making meter bases.
Today, the company he founded
continues to be a leader in supplying
equipment to keep the power ﬂowing.
"In the early days, the focus was
primarily with the electric co-ops,
and the product line expanded with
pad-mount pedestals used for underthem," says G.T. Carr, executive vice
president of the company.
"I think Mr. Durham primarily had
G.T.'s father, George E. Carr,
meter sockets," says Jon Chastain,
bought the company in 1961 after
national utility sales manager for the
Roy Durham's death. He moved it to
company. "He had a very limited
Lebanon in 1963, where it continues
offering. When G.T.'s father bought
to operate 50 years later. Laclede Electhe company, they started working
tric Cooperative serves the sprawling
in the upper Midwest, from Missouri
Lebanon factory and also buys a large
north, trying to ﬁnd places to sell
amount of the equipment it produces.
their products. They developed things
"He had really good growth at the
the cooperatives needed."
time and continued to expand the
With their focus on meeting
business," G.T. says of his father, who
the needs of utilities in rural areas,
is still involved in major decisions at
The Durham Co. found a niche
the business. "We've
with products the electric co-ops
had 12 or 13 expancouldn't ﬁnd elsewhere. One of
sions since then."
these was a meter base with
Besides the expana disconnect switch. This let
sions, the company opened
the homeowner kill power
a second facility in Hous**
inside the house without
ton, Mo., and acquired two
the need for a lengthy
plants that supply parts.
trip by a co-op employee.
Besides G.T., three other
As electricity began
Carrs worked for the familyto be viewed as an essential service,
owned business. Jenny ran the Housfarmers found they could no longer
ton operation for a time, while Jim
afford to be without power for any
founded and manages the connector
length of time. Dairy operations, for
line and Steve is the product manager
example, were dependent on electric
for the meter socket line. Doug Russell
milkers for their larger herds.
took over as Durham's president after
The Durham Co. responded by
developing a transfer switch that let
The Durham Co. is one of many
them safely switch to a generator
manufacturers in Missouri that quietly
should an outage occur. The switch
produce essential items most people
prevented electricity from ﬂowing
take for granted. Their No. 1 products
back across the cooperative's lines,
are boxes that in some way will house
creating a hazard for linemen.
an electrical meter. They also produce
"Part of our success is the customer
cabinets for switching equipment,
focus," says G.T. "Every utility has
transfer switches for generators and
individual needs, and we have catered
our products to meet these needs."
He says the company today has
more than 10,000 items in its extensive product line. An average of 1 million pounds of steel per month is used
by the company's 450 employees,
who G.T. credits for the company's
With Laclede Electric so close to
the company's headquarters in Lebanon, Durham's design engineers often
take ideas to the co-op for testing.
"They've been instrumental in developing and testing products," Jon says.
"The same is true for other electric coops in Missouri. At times, we use them
for a sounding board."
The relationship goes both ways.
While Laclede Electric counts on large
industrial loads such as The Durham
Co. to keep rates low for its residential
consumers, it also needs lots of the
"It certainly is a big advantage
to have a company like that in our
backyard," says Laclede Electric Manager Marc Roecker. "We have had the
advantage of serving that load for 50
years and beyond. Also, it's been nice
having a manufacturer nearby creating and innovating products used in
the mainstream of our business, not
to mention the jobs they provide. It's
been a great relationship."
You can learn more about The Durham Co. at www.durhamcompany.com
or by calling 417-532-7121.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2014
Rural Missouri - January 2014
Healing on horses
Out of the Way Eats
For the birds
Hearth and Home
The company behind the meter
Rural Missouri - January 2014