Fitch Co. Boasts a Sweeping History

It may be one of the Baltimore-Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC)’s newest members, but Fitch Co. of Baltimore definitely isn’t green, unless the topic of discussion happens to be environmental sustainability.

Founded in 1898 as the Fitch Dustdown Company, Fitch Co. has spent the past 116 years providing cleaning supplies and equipment to customers who demand products that work. Its longevity demonstrates that it knows the right formula.

The company started with only the aforementioned Fitch’s Dustdown in its inventory, a powder sprinkled over wooden floors and used, logically, to keep the dust down when sweeping.

Over the years the company added more products and product lines, growing to meet customer demands for a variety of effective cleaning products.

In the current era the company is still listening and making changes to meet customer demands, particularly in terms of environmental sustainability.

“We can take a company totally green, including recycled paper products and green chemical products,” said Fitch Co. CEO Lynne Kirsner. “In fact, we’ve been able to help companies get LEED certification by recommending products that meet the criteria.”

Although green used to be the goal, environmental thinking has now taken a more progressive turn toward sustainability, she observed.

“There are all kinds of environmental considerations — consequences for groundwater and the Chesapeake Bay, cleaning chemicals that enter the air, not wanting to tear down more forests for new paper products when recycled will do — and we have the alternatives,” Kirsner said.

Educated Partner

Aside from environmental considerations, Fitch Co. is used to making recommendations when it comes to user-friendly products and ergonomically designed tools.

Throughout its history the company also has differentiated itself by providing training in Cleaning Best Practices and in the proper use of its products, with sales representatives and customer service representatives certified in 23 custodial training programs.

“Our trainers have college degrees as teachers, and we have a teacher with a Special Education degree on staff,” Kirsner said.

Fitch Co.’s staff incudes a Cleaning Industry Management Standards certified trainer who has trained more than 90 customers in the past two years and an entire sales team certified in the proper cleaning and maintenance of Forbo flooring systems.

Over the past four years, staff members have conducted more than 50 hours of field training per month with customers, and the company also recently began helping customers become OSHA compliant, saving them thousands of dollars in fines.

Unlike many of its warehouse competitors, Fitch Co. operates its own service center, where it repairs more than 70 brands and types of equipment, making it the largest Manufacturer AAA-rated shop in the region.

Growth Returning

Located in a federally recognized Hubzone, Fitch Co. employs 35, is recognized as a Women’s Business Enterprise and has been certified as a Local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise since 1998 by the Maryland Department of Transportation, the City of Baltimore, the Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority and the state of Virginia.

Fitch Co.’s natural trade area covers Maryland; the District of Columbia; northern Virginia; and parts of Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“We also belong to Pro-Link, a buying group of similar companies that helps keep product costs down by combining purchasing power,” Kirsner said. “Pro-Link helps test and choose the top manufacturers, and its brand is the largest private label in the country.”

Like many companies in recent years, Fitch Co. took a hit during the recession. Customers not only cut back on cleaning budgets, but some loyal customers disappeared entirely.

“If a customer goes out of business, it affects everybody they do business with,” Kirsner said. “We’re in an interesting time now when businesses aren’t hurting as much as they had been. We’re doing better as the economy improves.”

Community Ties

As a company with a long history in the region, Kirsner said Fitch Co. continues to look for new ways to strengthen its community ties.

“We just joined the BWCC last year thanks to the invitation of Steve Zelenak of Revere Bank,” Kirsner said. “[BWCC CEO] Walt Townshend reached out to us immediately and introduced us to a lot of businesses in the area.”

In addition to worthwhile contacts and informative meetings that come with membership, “it looks like a wonderful group that’s able to understand the concerns we all face and help businesses grow,” she added. “As with anything, what you put into it is tied to what you get out of it, so we’re looking forward to getting involved in future Chamber events.”

Considering the significant visibility Fitch Co.’s large facility enjoys from traffic entering the city via MD 295, Kirsner and other members of Fitch Co.’s leadership team approached city officials about 18 months ago with a novel idea.

“We thought the building could become part of a wonderful gateway to Baltimore,” she said.

Taking a cue from nearby Philadelphia’s “Love Letter” mural arts program, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts is now endorsing a similar program in Charm City and has identified Fitch Co. as one of the first buildings that will become a canvas.

That is, if the mayor and city council can agree on whether it’s a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

While waiting for that argument to play out, Kirsner said the idea has a number of merits, not the least of which are beautification and a vote of confidence.

“I’m very excited about it,” she said. “It might be [a catalyst] to help revitalize the neighborhood, and we’d very much like to be a part of that.”

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