Most Viewed Stories
Marysville company celebrates 100 years of success
To learn more about the company, including its history, go to www.frankbooth.com.
Abandoned and blighted buildings on nearby streets tell the story of a city left behind.
But the activity level in the block-long industrial compound of Frank M. Booth Inc. tells a far different tale.
Here, just across C Street from the Yuba County Library, sheets of galvanized steel get carved and folded up into ductwork for the new South County Justice Center in Porterville.
"Everything here will bite you, sting you or cut you," warns Larry Booth, the company's president, as he strides through a noisy, tight maze of workstations.
Booth, 58, grandson of founder Frank Martin Booth Sr., recently hosted the company's 100-year anniversary party here at its birthplace and headquarters.
What started as a tinning and plumbing business in 1912's still-booming post-Gold Rush Marysville never really stood still, in spite of its ongoing presence in this spot.
In recent years, the company has employed as many as 450 workers.
"Be forever alert to change and try to make it work for you," reads a memo from Frank M. Booth Jr. to Larry's older brother, Martin, in 1978.
The thoughtful, eight-point list of his business principles signaled the passing of the mantle to a third generation.
"Remember always, this is a difficult and cyclical business — never let yourself or your staff get complacent," reads another of the prescriptions.
The family ethic is serious business here on this block.
"You should have been here last week," Booth says proudly of the company's new pet project.
The venture had FMB Inc. building the state's first biogas fueling station. The technology, developed at UC Davis, digests organic food waste into a compressed form of natural gas.
"It's like a little factory in a box," says Larry Booth, who recently shipped off the first of what he hopes will be part of an ongoing enterprise to Sacramento.
The company behind this, Clean World Partners of Gold River, will operate the station.
In another quadrant of Booth operations, a series of large hot water pump skids rules the landscape.
Plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems continue to represent much of the Booth company profile.
"We think it's dead sexy," says Larry Booth, who gets a laugh from a few workers within earshot. "But that's just us."
The company portfolio includes a diverse range of structures and projects, including hundreds of schools, hospitals, hotels, churches, jails and prisons.
Military contracts came into play during a few waves of infrastructure activity. One including a large re-investment close to home during the early 1950s when the Korean War made Camp Beale relevant again.
Titan missile silos — including one in the Sutter Buttes — used Booth contracts.
In the late 1970s, a large housing development project at Fort Ord near Monterey helped keep Larry Booth's father busy, and a solar energy project the Booths took on several years later on the base became the largest of its kind.
The Monterey Peninsula has been a regular hub of Booth activity. The company was responsible in large part for a 78,000-pound acrylic viewing window in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay. At the time of its installation in 1995, it was the largest window in the world.
"It's tricky," says Larry Booth of the engineering feats involved with working at the aquarium.
Investing in its roots
Tricky engineering and progressive thinking are at the root of the company's longevity, according to Larry Booth.
"We've always been open to, and embraced, new technologies and ways of doing things," he says.
Frank Sr. established that policy in 1938 when he got into the brand-new business of home air conditioning.
The company, "located in the hot Central Valley with its growing population, was in the right place at the right time to grow with this infant technology," reads a passage from an anniversary book about Frank M. Booth Inc. published in 1992.
Frank Jr. went straight into a role as a research engineer at Carrier Air Conditioning in New York state after graduating from Santa Clara University in 1940, a fact that no doubt helped his family's company grow with the industry in subsequent decades.
Along with the family's approach to engineering and business, Larry Booth says being part of the family enterprise has meant finding his own way to approach the founder's basic philosophies regarding community life.
Frank Sr. had been right in the mix. At various times he was a City Council member, mayor, Yuba County supervisor and a levee commissioner.
But in subsequent generations, the Booths have kept an increasingly lower profile their home turf.
When the Travelers Hotel building went up in flames next door a year ago, Booth made sure each of its suddenly homeless residents received a Walmart gift card that would help them get back on their feet.
The company makes quiet, sometimes anonymous, donations to community causes. Education is a favorite area for its charitable funding.
"You start tooting your horn, and pretty soon a train comes and runs you over," Larry Booth says.
The low-key approach is no doubt a product of the current fiscal and political climate of the region.
Booth Inc. had been at the forefront of unionized labor in Northern California, a fact that pushed the company toward the Bay Area to win contracts it could not get closer to home.
In a region that is increasingly anti-union and anti-government, Larry Booth says his way of looking at the world is pretty unpopular.
"In spite of all the bad press, California is still a pretty good place to work," he says. "A lot of people decry taxes. But the government's done a lot of nice things for us, thanks to taxpayers."
Among these, he counts environmental protection and subsidized college education as high on the list of blessings.
Educated, skilled workers are not always easy for his company to find locally, he says. It's a fact that he says reflects the priorities of the region.
"The blessed complain the most about taxes," he says. "They're not as community-minded as in the past."
Still, Booth Inc. is doubling down on Marysville.
The company has offices in Granite Bay and the Bay Area. But as its focus has increased on design-build projects, home is where it makes the most sense to do the manufacturing work, says Larry Booth.
At $70 million in gross revenue, the company is starting to work its way out of recession-level operations and back up to pre-2007 levels, he says.
The C Street complex currently employs 40 people.
"But we want to build more and more in the shop here, and less and less in the field," says Larry Booth.
That means the hometown force will likely expand.
"Of course, we expect to grow," he says. "We're not in the business of shrinking."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.