By Graziella DiNuzzo, Director of Communications and Development , WTCGP
President, Carlos Gonzalez Jr., walked past the stacks of unwrapped Christmas presents towering in the corner of the conference room, a few floors above the American Cable Company warehouse in Northeast Philadelphia. “I still have to wrap my grandkids presents,” he smiles.
“Welcome to American Cable Company.”
“None of this would have happened if my dad hadn’t won the lottery to leave Cuba with me, my sister and mom in the late 60’s,” Gonzalez says with outstretched arms pointing to the shelves lined with toy sized John Deere and Caterpillar trucks and cranes.
“When we got off the plane in Miami, the person greeting us asked my dad where he wanted to go and he said, north. We ended up in Queens New York. I still remember the milk crate on the fire escape we used as a refrigerator and how our laundry would get frozen stiff on the outside clothesline.”
Six months after arriving in New York, Carlos Sr. accepted a job as a painter, and relocated his family to North Philadelphia. It wasn’t long before Carlos Sr. was supervising 50 people. “He was a leader,” Gonzalez says.
“He worked so hard, had an idea, and made it happen.”
After a day of painting, Carlos Sr. would hand make replacement auto battery terminals– a part sought after by area mechanics.
“I would go around Philly collecting scrap metal.”
“We would melt down the lead from scrap in a homemade 55-gallon drum furnace - in our garage. Back then we piped the exhaust through our home chimney,” laughs Gonzalez. No, we weren’t afraid.”
“My dad would go door-to-door selling to mechanics from the trunk of his car.”
Carlos Sr. eventually quit his day job and dedicated the rest of his life to growing his idea into a business.
“I was in high school in 1976 when we first started the company,” Gonzalez recalls. “The lead would be dumped into our yard and we would hand lift every bar. Friends and family would help. It was hard, but we did it.”
Orders were coming in fast.
“Harry” was their first distributor – one of the first in a series of instrumental people who would become like family.
“We didn’t have a contract, just a handshake, just our word.”
Quality Control Manager, Daryl Greene recalls, “I remember Carlos Senior’s strength, in character. And physically, he was a strong man. A good man.”
Matthew Tretter, Plant Manager adds, “This is a nice family run company. They treat everyone like family. Carlos Senior would tell us to get it done and get it right.”
In the 1980’s Edgar Huertado saw a man driving a forklift in the parking lot of American Cable’s first warehouse. He asked the man for a job and the man, Carlos Sr., told him to come back the next day – he’s been working with the family for 38 years.
“He was like a father to me,” says Huertado, now an Engineer.
Gonzalez slaps Huertado on the back “And I remember my mom asking what Edgar wanted for lunch.”
Today, American Cable Company, Inc. comprises five manufacturing divisions, which include battery cables, wiring harnesses, assemblies, components, and contract manufacturing. All products are made in America from its 170,000 square foot manufacturing facility located in Northeast Philadelphia, PA. American Cable sells their products to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), defined as manufacturers who resell another company's product under their own name and branding.
American Cable customers also include John Deere, Caterpillar and small to medium sized businesses requiring customized parts.
In 2005, American Cable began to export.
“Approximately 30% of our sales are export,” says Henke de Vos, Global Sales Manager. “We export to the UK, Poland, Germany, India, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, France, Brazil, Italy and most recently, Australia.”
With the support of Dale Foote, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia International Trade Specialist, American Cable has set up distributors in Italy, Australia, and Poland.
“Our company is well known for delivery and flexibility and superior engineering support,” adds de Vos.
In addition to its highly skilled, trained staff, American Cable hires and trains through IMPACT Services Corporation, a community organization that helps economically disadvantaged, as well as veterans and ex-prisoners find meaningful employment.
Carlos Gonzalez Jr. has been President of American Cable since 1990. Although retired, Carlos Sr. would start his day at the factory at 5 am every morning. In 2010, Carlos Sr. celebrated his last birthday, his 82nd - at the warehouse.
“I know what the American dream is – it’s real. If you can make it anywhere, it’s here. I know what it took for my dad to get here,” says Gonzalez.