CHESTERTOWN — The LaMotte Company is synonymous with top-notch water testing products, and it’s been that way for a century.
The third generation of the family — David LaMotte has been the president since 1981 — heads the business that Frank L. LaMotte started in 1919 when he left DuPont to found the first United States company to design and produce portable analysis equipment. Grandfather LaMotte began by making the first domestically produced pH test kits, since early ones came from Germany and relations with that country were strained at the time.
The rest is history.
The company, which moved from Baltimore to its current location at 802 Washington Ave. in Chestertown in 1956, is recognized as an industry leader in field-testing products for water and soil analysis. It’s still best known, perhaps, for the kits for testing chlorine and pH in swimming pools that it introduced in 1925.
As part of its centennial celebration, LaMotte Company opened its facility to the public for employee-led tours last week. Nearly 225 community members, including Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and former congressman Wayne Gilchrest, learned about the chemistry of the company — literally and figuratively.
“It’s a very nice place to work. The culture is a lot like Kent County, caring and friendly,” said Angela Elburn, a Rock Hall native who has been with LaMotte for 27 years.
Elburn’s stop on the tour was supply chain, which consists of in-house departments including receiving, purchasing, the print shop and inventory control.
The supply chain team works closely with the research and development team, production, accounting, marketing, the art department, and the customer and tech service departments.
Elburn said “supply chain is successful due to the camaraderie of the team, a great level of trust, support and communication.”
The full tour (offered on Nov. 18 and Nov. 19) took about an hour, with stops that included the warehouse, the production and test strip lab, the print shop and the 9,000-square-foot addition that was completed last year. Company President David LaMotte was one of the tour guides.
“We are so pleased people from the community took us up on our invitation to celebrate 100 years in business with us and come see what we do here. It is the first time, I am aware of, that we have opened this facility to tours,” David LaMotte said in an email.
“The predominant feedback we received on our Open House was what a great job the employees did explaining all the different products and processes we create and manufacture here in Chestertown,” he said. “I feel so fortunate to live and work in Chestertown, and to be working with such a great group of engaged people.”
The tour concluded with a PowerPoint presentation reviewing the 100-year history of the company, which was led by another of the founder’s grandsons, Richard LaMotte, who is vice president of marketing and sales.
Since its relocation to Chestertown 63 years ago, the company has undergone changes to its physical plant and personnel.
About two and a half years ago, the on-site warehouse underwent a major renovation that increased storage capacity by more than 45%.
The recent masonry and glass addition, which can be seen from the road, was needed because of the growth of the company’s reagent disk product line and the need for more research and development space. At the same time, interior renovations were made to help modernize the office.
In 1971, Charles LaMotte succeeded his father Frank as president. Eight years later, Charles and eight employees purchased the company from the LaMotte family. And in 1983, the company was sold to Arthur H. Thomas Corp. (AHT) in Swedesboro, N.J. LaMotte Company is still privately owned by AHT.
Today, LaMotte has 235 employees. That includes 60 in its new WaterLink Spin Touch division.
The company sells globally through its distribution partners LaMotte Pacific, LaMotte Asia and LaMotte Europe.
Earlier this year, the LaMotte Company received a Maryland International Business Award in recognition of its international business growth, growth in the state of Maryland through workforce development and revenue growth, and support efforts to give back to the local community.