Summer 2021 Catalyst
Something as simple as a trip to the store requires lots of power. Battery power. The vehicle you drive, the delivery trucks that transport goods, even the cell tower service you use to research your items are all supported by lead battery power. And chances are, you’ve used a battery built by Pennsylvania- headquartered company East Penn Manufacturing Company, more commonly known as East Penn.
Tiny Town, Big Dreams
East Penn is deeply rooted in Pennsylvania soil. Founded in 1946 by Berks County natives DeLight Breidegam, Jr. and his father, DeLight Sr., East Penn started as a dream in the tiny village of Bowers. Despite having little money to start with, the Breidegams had a passion for the business and were determined to bring their vision to life. Operating out of a one-room creamery, father and son worked hard at their fledgling enterprise, spending their days and nights collecting and rebuilding used batteries. The business steadily grew day-by-day, and eventually East Penn released its first line of batteries — the well-known Deka brand, consisting of five automotive battery types.
Through hard work, ingenuity, continual reinvestment and talented people, the company thrived and grew, expanding over state lines and eventually the globe over an incredible 75 years. Now headquartered in Lyon Station, PA, East Penn produces more than 515 battery types at their 520-acre facility in Lyon Station and other locations in Iowa, which range in size from six pounds to over 50,000 pounds. Their state-of-the-art products power cars, trucks, boats, tractors and forklifts. East Penn products are even essential to powering hospitals, businesses, telecommunications and military vehicles.
Powered by People
Such an incredible story would not be possible without incredible people. East Penn has grown from a few people working in a one-room shop to one of the world’s leading battery manufacturers, with more than 10,600 employees in 34 U.S. states and five countries. And the vast majority of those employees — 7,995, to be exact – are located right here in Pennsylvania.
At East Penn’s core is a passion for people. The company is dedicated to supporting and empowering employees and their families. Extensive training and mentorship programs provide opportunities to seek internal advancement; and their transfer policy allows employees to advance career paths and opportunities without sacrificing seniority and benefits. Co-workers are encouraged to bring their talent and creativity into the workplace and are equipped with the right tools, including the use of Six Sigma methodology to promote continuous improvement.
It is because of their employees that East Penn has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania” 19 times since 2000. East Penn has also been recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Large Employers three times. Forbes’ annual ranking pinpoints those companies that are liked best by employees and are most likely to be recommended as an employer.
In 2020, Forbes ranked the company as one of Pennsylvania’s Best-In-State Employers.
Building a Sustainable Tomorrow
Part of caring for people is caring for the environment, ensuring that the local communities where people live, work, and raise their children are safe. That is why East Penn is working toward a more sustainable future. The company is committed to minimizing waste at every step, from design through production, distribution, use and eventual reuse of materials. At their on-site smelter, the company efficiently recycles and reuses all three major components of a lead battery — lead, plastic and acid — in the production of new products. In fact, lead batteries have a recycling rate of 99 percent, making them one of the most recycled consumer products in the U.S.
But that’s not all East Penn recycles. The company’s state-of-the-art, zero discharge industrial wastewater treatment plant treats and recycles millions of gallons of water every year. They also have a patented system that captures Sulfur oxides generated during the battery recycling process, and reprocesses them into a liquid solution to be used as an agricultural fertilizer — turning what was once a byproduct into a useful farm product.
Charging into the Future
A company doesn’t thrive for 75 years without embracing change and innovation, which is vital in the fast-paced, ever-evolving world of battery powered energy solutions. As a global leader in the field, East Penn is fully committed to staying at the forefront of industry developments to best meet the power needs of today and tomorrow.
East Penn’s research and development of new battery technology is known around the world for its role in developing new innovations in clean energy storage for start-stop and other hybrid electric vehicles, smart electrical grid technology and renewable energy generation, like wind and solar power. At their Research and Development facility, East Penn focuses on the latest in advanced lead battery development, process automation and robotics, and the exploration of alternative battery technologies.
As East Penn continues to innovate and grow, some things won’t change. The heart of East Penn has always been, and will always be, its people.
Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.