Dewart fire equipment firm honored by U.S. Small Business Administration | News


DEWART — The Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company, a 70-year-old family business in Dewart was named Eastern Pennsylvania 2022 Business of the Year on Wednesday by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“I’m thrilled, excited and honored by this recognition,” said company President Keith Foust, whose grandfather, Max, founded the company in 1951 by selling fire extinguishers out of a garage.

From being a one-man show, Max Foust Sr.’s business has grown to have 33 employees in two locations, and serve a 20-county area throughout Central Pennsylvania, said Steve Dixel, district director, Small Business Association (SBA).

The company was recognized for its vibrancy, resiliency, and overall achievements, Dixel said.

“When the pandemic began,” he said, “business was halted at Susquehanna Fire, and more than half their workforce had to be laid off. With the help of the Bucknell Small Business Development Center, the company was approved for an SBA and PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan. Eventually, those employees who were laid off returned to work. How this company survived is a success story. A lot of small companies didn’t.”

Susquehanna Fire Equipment provides all manners of fire suppression equipment, rescue equipment, and industrial safety products.

It’s a hands-on business, Foust said.

“It would be difficult to sell a lot of what we do on the internet, the services we provide,” he said. “Most of our stuff is customer contact. Most of our sales guys are in constant touch with our customers. We started a web store a few years ago, but it just didn’t work. Our base is service. All the products that we sell, we service and that is what we decided years ago, when the internet was firing up.”

Through all the years of its existence, Susquehanna Fire was helped by the Bucknell Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The company was the center’s seventh client. SBDC now has 17,000 clients.

The SBDC helped Susquehanna Fire with financial statement analysts, budgeting consultants, marketing, and team building, said Maureen Hauck, assistant director, business consulting, SBDC.

“It’s been a personal pleasure working with you,” she said. “And the things your dad taught you to get your business to where it is today, 70 years later, was not just about business. It was great work ethic, social responsibility, values — the things you learned along the way was remarkable.”

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