BERGEN — Liberty Pumps may be a big player in the global market, but it is the recognition by his local community which makes Charlie Cook proud.
Liberty Pumps has been honored by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce as its “Business of the Year,” something Cook said he thought was great.
“I love Genesee County, and while I’m involved in a lot of things, it’s more satisfying and has such a big impact when you’re honored by your small community. This is a significant honor for us.”
Liberty Pumps was founded by Cook’s uncle Frederick C. Cook in 1965.
“It was pretty much a one-show at first,” Cook said. “He had only sump pumps.”
Frederick acquired the design and manufacturing rights to the pumps after his employer, Reif-Rexoil Company of Buffalo decided to suspend manufacture of the line.
Frederick was so convinced there was potential in the pump business, he was willing to invest his money and future in it. He started Liberty Pumps in a small building on Buffalo Road in his native Bergen.
Charlie joined his uncle’s growing business in 1972, where his responsibilities included the development of Liberty’s first plastic pump models. He soon became second in command, and when Frederick retired in 1975, Charlie bought the business.
Charlie shared his uncle’s faith in the future of the pump business, placing even greater emphasis on product development and service to the customer. Soon distribution of Liberty products became nationwide.
Liberty Pumps has undergone five expansions in three different locations – all in Bergen, which is also Charlie’s home town. He grew up on a farm just a few miles from Liberty’s location in Apple Tree Acres Corporate Park, and his daughter Robyn Brookhart now lives in the homestead. Brookhart is also executive vice president and chief operating officer of Liberty Pumps, and her brother Jeffrey is vice president and purchasing manager.
Liberty Pumps has continued to grow steadily since its founding, even during the rocky economic conditions of the 1980s. From the first small building with one employee, the company’s facility now encompasses 244,000 square feet and 200 employees.
“While the export segment of the business is important to our growth, our local roots are part of our culture,” Cook said. “We like to operate like a small company. We remain very community-minded and interested in the welfare of our employees.”
Their last building expansion, completed in 2016, has been a huge benefit to the company, Cook said.
“We really needed the larger warehouse and production area, and the enlarged research and development section,” Cook said.
A state-of-the-art training center allows Liberty to bring in larger groups to train how to use and sell their products. They have the facility to do classroom training and hands-on product training, Cook said.
Future plans call for expanding their line into larger pumps with more horsepower and to continue to expand into the global market. The larger pumps will enable the company to service industrial and municipal markets.
Liberty Pumps owns 13 patents and exports pumps to more than 20 countries.
“We’re proud of all the people who got us here,” Cook said, standing by the decade wall, which documents the company’s growth by decade.
“All our upper management people are local kids who graduated from Byron-Bergen, Pavilion and Wyoming. We didn’t have to import that talent. It’s all home-grown.”