By Mike Pare
Deputy Business Editor
A Chattanooga manufacturer that was a start-up just four years ago is growing at a rapid pace as the purchase of an Oklahoma business adds to its revenues and work force.
North American Industrial Manufacturing Co., a maker of medical therapy equipment, has gone to 60 employees in the period, said Vice President Chad Morgan.
The South Creek Road business expects to add another 15 to 20 employees with the acquisition of Tulsa, Okla.-based Rich-Mar Corp. and the shift of its production to Chattanooga, he said.
"We put together a nice business plan four years ago," said Mr. Morgan about his group of partners that includes Bob Thompson and Wayne Basler. "We're kind of excited" about the prospects for growth.
North American produces a variety of products, from hot and cold packs to equipment used by physical therapists and pain management clinics. Rich-Mar specializes in ultrasound, electrotherapy and light therapy equipment.
Business for North American, with a 52,000-square-foot facility, has jumped 100 percent in the past year, Mr. Morgan said. The purchase of Rich-Mar should triple the size of the company, Mr. Morgan said.
"Rich-Mar has been in business 28 years. It brings a lot of history to us," he said.
Revenues at North American Industrial are between $8 million and $10 million annually, the company official said. He is projecting revenues to climb to between $35 million and $40 million in three years.
Mr. Morgan cited demand for its products and consolidation in the marketplace. He said the company continues to invest in the business, adding to automation.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber
Andres Ramirez inserts three sub-assembly tubes into a new lotion warmer unit on the line at North American Industrial Manufacturing Co. on South Creek Road.
"We want to continue to innovate," Mr. Morgan said.
The city is home to another medical therapy and devices company: Chattanooga Group. Now a division of ReAble Therapeutics, Chattanooga Group turned 60 this spring, with annual sales nearing $100 million and about 350 employees, most of whom are based here.
In 2006, ReAble, then called Encore Medical, was purchased by private equity firm The Blackstone Group. What started in 1947 with a heating pad developed by Chattanooga Lookouts athletic trainer Lee Jensen has been turned into a global operation with two manufacturing plants in the area and sales and distribution sites in Belgium and Australia.
Mr. Morgan said Chattanooga has a history rich in the sector and a lot of employees with knowledge needed to be successful.
"The work force is acclimated to that type of industry," he said.
Mr. Morgan said while it has no difficulty finding skilled people, the business provides an extensive training program.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president for marketing, said the Scenic City has a cluster of businesses related to medical devices.
"We have a pretty substantial research and development component. There are a number of entrepreneurial doctors and doctor groups that produce this kind of innovation," he said.
Bill Whymer, the company's director of operations, said North American Industrial started with no name recognition. The recent acquisition of a well-established firm helps give validity to the Chattanooga business, he said.
"I see even more growth," Mr. Whymer said, also citing innovation by the company. "We can make a better mousetrap."
Ray Boswell, the company's chief financial officer, said the timing of the acquisition of a company such as Rich-Mar was faster than he expected, but he also foresees rapid expansion.
"We're well on our way," he said.
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