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Hempfield company General Carbide celebrates 50 years

Stephen Huba
| Saturday, July 28, 2018, 9:48 a.m.
General Carbide President and CEO Mona Pappafava-Ray.
Submitted
General Carbide President and CEO Mona Pappafava-Ray.
'General'Premo Pappafava, founder of General Carbide Corp., mugs for the camera in the early 1990s.
General Carbide Corp.
'General'Premo Pappafava, founder of General Carbide Corp., mugs for the camera in the early 1990s.
General Carbide founder Premo Pappafava.
Submitted
General Carbide founder Premo Pappafava.

General Carbide Corp. is a company in exclusive company.

Founded in 1968, the Hempfield company has survived, and even thrived, where many family-owned businesses have failed.

On Saturday, General Carbide, 1151 Garden St., will celebrate its 50 th anniversary with a festival for its 200 employees, plus family members, vendors, suppliers and customers.

“Seventy percent of businesses fail to get to the second generation,” said President and CEO Mona Pappafava-Ray. “I take tremendous pride in leading a company that has defied the odds.”

Pappafava-Ray, who took over for her father, Premo, in 2002, said fewer than 10 percent of companies in business today have been around for at least 50 years.

The last 10 years have been particularly challenging for General Carbide, which provides tungsten carbide tooling for the oil and gas, automotive and ammunition industries, among others. The company weathered the twin storms of the 2008 recession and the 2014 oil-and-gas industry downturn, Pappafava-Ray said.

“In 2014-2015, if you were in oil and gas, you suffered. We were left with millions of dollars of inventory on the shelf,” she said.

The company held onto the inventory and rode out the storm. Even in those difficult years, General Carbide grew on average by double digits every year, she said. It currently has annual sales of more than $40 million, according to its website .

Pappafava-Ray attributes the company’s health to the philosophy of its founder.

“My father taught us to be fiscally like a company and socially like a family,” she said. “That’s what we’ve done all these years.”

A native of small-town Indiana, Pappafava and his family moved to Sewickley Township in 1936. Prior to starting his own business, he put his chemical engineering degree from then-Carnegie Institute of Technology to use at Teledyne Firth Sterling in the Pittsburgh area.

He founded General Carbide in 1968 and ran it until his death in 2002 at age 75.

Pappafava-Ray worked alongside her father and, in those 20 years, learned the importance of reinvesting in the business, planning, treating employees well and investing in automation, she said.

She summed up her father’s philosophy as “putting the business first.” So in the difficult years since 2008, the company responded by putting more than $8 million into capital improvements, she said.

“You have to consistently put money into the business to manage the rapidly changing environment,” she said. “You have to reinvest and determine what’s next on the horizon.”

Saturday’s picnic and carnival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the company’s headquarters in Hempfield.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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