A Tradition of Quality
Baton Rouge Machine Works , LLC (BR Machine) is the result of the progression of talents, dedication and determination, which began nearly sixty years ago when Walter Rivette and Donald Dowty made the decision to form Quality Machine Works, Inc. The partners served in the US Navy during World War II and served in their apprenticeships at Delgado Trade School and Prager Gear Company. They later moved to Baton Rouge and worked at the Standard Oil Refinery. In the late 1950s, they worked second jobs where they met another machinist, Pete Rounsaville, at Clanton's Machine Shop in North Baton Rouge.
In August 1961 the three men agreed on a plan to begin their own company. This was no small decision as the men were all married with young children.
Soon thereafter, each man borrowed $10,000 from Louisiana National Bank and placed a second mortgage on their homes in order to secure their loans. The newly formed company was named Quality Machine Works Inc. (QMW) because they wanted the name to reflect their unwritten mission statement and to set higher standards. To reduce the overhead expenses, everyone worked including the wives who assumed the responsibilities of accounting, purchasing and other inner-office duties. The fledgling operation set up shop at 4743 Airline Highway between Scallan's Meat Market and the old Gibson's Shopping Center.
Initially, QMW supplemented Esso and Kaiser Aluminum with their machine and equipment repairs. In the 1960’s times were difficult and the competition fierce. As a result, the men at QMW often endured eighty-hour work weeks in order to complete projects as efficiently as possible. In 1963 a young Johnny Bowen began working at Quality Machine and began learning under the owners of the growing company. By 1970 the partners acquired Clanton’s Machine Shop.
The men were extremely dedicated, and demanded the best from their employees. Always the pranksters, the three maintained their sense of humor, and kept up morale with their high spirited antics. However, In the early seventies, the partners decided to separate the businesses. Dowty became owner of the former Clanton shop on Plank Road and Rivette took the reigns of QMW still located on Airline Highway, with Bowen working occasionally with Rivette as a secondary job.
Pictured right: The three founders of Quality Machine Works. (from left to right) Pete Rounsaville, Walter Rivette, and Donald Dowty, 1961
Quality Machine Works, Inc., 1961
After Rivette's death in 1974, his oldest son, Glenn, assumed managerial responsibility at the age of 26. In early 1975, it was all hands on deck as Walter’s widow, Flora, as well as their four children, all contributed to the operation of the business. The go-to machinist, brother-in-law David“Tall Dave”Cancienne, had been working for a few years under his father-in-law, and became a right hand to Glenn in the immediate years following the sudden transition. With unrelenting dedication from family, many loyal employees and customers, the business grew but was constrained by its size and location.
In 1978, Johnny Bowen was hired as a partner and the first order of business became the relocation of its facility. Property was acquired on Ronaldson Road and a new building was erected on a four-acre tract of land located across from the Stupp Corporation. After this expansion, in just three years, company sales quadrupled.
By 1981, and with oil and gas exploration peaking, Quality Machine Works was booming. It was then that the family sold the business to Union Pump out of Battle Creek, Michigan. The following year, Rivette and Bowen formed a new company, under the name Baton Rouge Machine Works, Inc.
At the onset, the partners continued manufacturing proprietary equipment designed by Walter Rivette. After the eighteen-month no-compete period expired, BR Machine began manufacturing oilfield tools and repairing blow out preventors. During an oil and gas recession, the partners seized opportunity in the paper industry and by 1987 BR Machine had expanded it’s operation. Now with the larger Roll Shop, the company’s work load and capabilities dramatically increased. That same year Jody Doiron was hired as the Field Service manager.
BR Machine designed and built specialized machinery to repair heavy industrial equipment on site. Through the years Field Services has been a major division of the company throughout the US and Canada.
During the 1990’s the company grew and continued to expand. In 1997 they opened a sister company in Prattville, Alabama. The companies continued to modernize and implement new machinery including CNC lathes and mills throughout the turn of the century. During the early 2000’s BR Machine remained successful.
Baton Rouge Machine Works
Above: Johnny Bowen (left) and Glenn Rivette (right) with a machining turbine case, 1981
In 2008, the partners were approached by, MAN Diesel and Turbo with an offer to acquire the Baton Rouge Operation. MAN’s vision was to expand its reach into the USA with the manufacturing of turbo equipment. With an ever changing industrial business environment, MAN decided to pull up stakes in Baton Rouge and go another route, offering the company back to its original owners.
The Dawn of a New Era
Realizing the opportunity and believing that Baton Rouge Machine Works could once again thrive, Glenn Rivette and Johnny Bowen have decided to reunite. Continuing the legacy and poised for a boom in a rebounding industry, BR Machine has turned the page to yet another chapter. With the help of long time, dedicated staff members and a loyal group of top machinists, we are ready to serve the industry with the same traditions of quality, precision, and true American grit that has served the industry for more than a half century.
To date, machinery and equipment designed and built by BR Machine is used in specialty processes in many industries and countries throughout the world. Walter Rivette would be amazed if he were able to see the progression of the machine industry, and how his legacy has evolved and continues to live on, in the year 2018.
Sylvia Frank Rodrigue, and Faye Phillips. Historic Baton Rouge-An Illustrated History. Historical Publishing Network, 2006.