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Zambelli Fireworks says CEO leaves, family to manage company

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 10:48 a.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
EQT Fireworks Fantasia by Zambelli during the EQT Three Rivers Regatta on Thursday, July 4, 2013.
Dr. George Zambelli Jr. -photographed 4/10/12- for Promotions Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

The outgoing CEO at nationally known Zambelli Internationale Fireworks prepared it for growth, and now the grandson of the founder and other board members will run the company they acquired six years ago.

Chairman George R. Zambelli Jr. said on Thursday that “it's business as usual” at the company, which presented 800 fireworks displays in 40 states during the week of July Fourth.

The New Castle-based company said Doug Taylor, president and CEO since 2007, chose to leave “due to other commitments.” Taylor could not be reached for comment.

“We thank him for his efforts and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Zambelli said. “He achieved what we needed. Now he decided to do the things he enjoys.”

Zambelli said Taylor was hired “to help build Zambelli's infrastructure so that we could manage the growth of the company” and faced challenges during a “tumultuous time” for an industry threatened in recent years by soaring prices and problems with shipments from China.

Taylor oversaw the addition of customer management and accounting software, an inventory control system, and expanded the company's operations in New Castle and the United States, Zambelli said.

“It is certain that the ‘Pyrotechnic Magic' that my father, George Zambelli Sr., along with his brothers Joe, Carmen and Lou created, will continue for many years,” Zambelli said. His grandfather, fireworks maker Antonio Zambelli, founded the company after emigrating from Italy in 1893.

Zambelli employs 40 people full time, a number that swells to 2,000 during the Fourth of July week. The company buys most of its fireworks from suppliers in China, and from Japan and Europe, but manufactures some specialty fireworks at its plant.

“My Uncle Lou, who's 87, still works for us on specialty materials,” Zambelli said. The company tries to keep around two years' worth of inventory on hand to prevent shortages. A hot summer in China this year, for example, hindered manufacturing, “so it's important to have ample inventory.”

During the recent recession, municipalities and some corporate sponsors cut back fireworks purchases. Yet Taylor worked to expand Zambelli's business and improve its operation. “Now we have the ability to grow at a much faster rate,” Zambelli said.

In 2007, Zambelli and three friends bought the company from other members of his family. He holds the largest ownership share; Ed Meyer, Gary McKnight and Dick McDonald, who have financial backgrounds, split the rest. Some staff members have been with the company more than 40 years, Zambelli said.

Among the family's fourth-generation employees is Zambelli's son Jared, who coordinated this year's displays in Pittsburgh at the Three Rivers Regatta and on July 4.

“Fireworks are a passion, a labor of love,” George Zambelli said. “When you have that passion, you want to be involved.”

John D. Oravecz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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