Wellsburg business noted for success in exports

SHOP TALK — Luke Diserio, left, chief executive officer of American Muscle Docks, speaks with U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-Wheeling, during Monday’s tour of the business. McKinley presented American Muscle Docks with an export achievement certificate in acknowledgment of a contract through which the Wellsburg business supplied two dock systems for a port used by cruise ships in San Juan del Sur, a major tourist attraction in Nicaragua. The country is one of 13 to which American Muscle Docks has exported product. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — Many who pass the sign for American Muscle Docks & Fabrication on state Route 27, or even many who live in Brooke County, where the business has operated for more than 50 years, probably don’t know the company has provided docks for 13 countries, from Australia to the Virgin Islands.

But that background and a recent major contract for docks used at a Nicaraguan port have earned American Muscle Docks special recognition from U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-Wheeling, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Diego Gattesco, senior international trade specialist for the department’s Commercial Service division, and McKinley visited the business Monday to present a certificate acknowledging the company’s export achievement.

The company also was named exporter of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration for the West Virginia region and a district that includes several coastal states.

Luke Diserio, company chief executive officer, said American Muscle Docks supplied two dock systems for a public port used by cruise ships and others stopping at San Juan del Sur, a major tourist attraction for Nicaragua, through a nearly half-million dollar government contract. He said the cost didn’t reflect the size of the docks as much as the quality of materials sought by the Nicaraguan officials, which he was happy to provide.

Diserio said up to last year the contract was the largest for American Muscle Docks, but it wasn’t the first time docks and other company products have been shipped overseas.

On a wall in the central office where a handful of staffers work are commendations from West Virginia governors for the various countries to which American Muscle Docks has exported product. Among them are Norway, Mexico and the Bahamas.

“Every year we’ve done more and more, and our plan is to keep expanding it,” Diserio said.

He said international trade missions with officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce and West Virginia Development Office have helped to bring American Muscle Dock’s name to foreign markets.

In addition to floating and stationary dock systems, the company produces ramps, jet ski lifts, dog sport jumping rigs, dock flash and assorted other dock parts and accessories.

Its roots can be traced to Valley Manufacturing, a Follansbee company that fabricated metal for the former Follansbee Dock Systems company beginning in 1963.

When that company’s owners announced plans to sell, Valley almost immediately offered to buy, said Diserio, and the business, renamed American Muscle Docks & Fabrication, moved to its present site in 1987.

Headed by Diserio and his father, Paul, who serves as president, it employs 27 full- and part-time employees.

Luke said he would like to open warehouses in major coastal areas to expedite the transportation of product and would be happy to establish operations close to the Ohio River.

“I just want to be known for having the coolest looking docks — when people want nice docks, for them to think of us,” he said.

McKinley said exportation to foreign markets “presents a great opportunity for West Virginia businesses. It sounds cumbersome, but it’s not.”

He said other businesses in the state that have found success in exporting include a Philippi manufacturer of cooling towers, which has customers in Russia and Asia; a Paden City company that produces colored glass for churches and other buildings; and Marble King, the world-known producer of marbles in Moundsville.

McKinley applauded the U.S. Department of Commerce for its efforts to help the state’s businesses to open doors to foreign markets.

He said as a member of Congress, he’s worked to preserve and improve the state’s economy in various ways.

He said the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle has secured $2.5 million in federal brownfield cleanup funds, allowing it to secure another $70 million in private funds for such efforts.

McKinley said he’s working with others to address opioid addiction in the state. He said the Trump administration has allocated $4 billion for the problem nationally, much of it for much needed treatment facilities.

He said he will push for a study of alternative treatments for pain and safer forms of opiate-based drugs, such as time release capsules, and support aiding businesses that offer rehabilitation to addicted employees or those that offer new employment to those who have recovered from addiction.

McKinley said he’d consider allowing those charged with possession of an illegal drug, and not for dealing drugs, to have their criminal records expunged after a designated period to improve their chances of re-entering the work force.

He said there’s evidence of Fentanyl and other illegal drugs being mailed to the U.S. from China, and he would push for more postal inspectors to block that delivery route.