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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 9 months ago

Half-century old manufacturer enhances strategy, model

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Pelican Wire is going new in several areas, from clients to equipment to even employee benefits. The strategy could begin to pay off in 2020.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributor

For Naples-based Pelican Wire, 2019 was a year focused on the future.

The 50-year-old manufacturer of resistance and thermocouple wire has had a steady customer base of parts suppliers who use its products in a variety of ways, including in components for electrocardiogram equipment and wind turbine blades. But in 2019, the company actively worked to get its name and capabilities in front of potential new clients.

‘I don’t think there’s always an appreciation for the risks that people take when they start their own business. It’s only in hindsight that you realize the kind of mountains you’re able to scale and the adversities you’re able to overcome.’ Ted Bill, Pelican Wire

“It was the first year we exhibited at multiple trade fairs,” says Ted Bill, president of Pelican Holdings Group, the Employee Stock Ownership group that owns Pelican Wire. The firm attended events for the medical, automotive, advanced materials and electric vehicle industries to educate prospective customers on the ways its wire products can be used in applications that either generate heat or need to measure temperature.

“We’ve had a couple of opportunities come out of those exhibits, though none have translated into business yet,” Bill says. “But that’s part of the process of marketing for us. I couldn’t convince you to buy a spool of wire; you really have to have a need for it. So it’s about being in the right place at the right time in front of the right person.”

Pelican Wire, with $37 million in revenue in 2017 and 2018, up 19.5% from $31 million in 2016, plans to continue that same strategy for 2020 by attending three or four trade shows, though not necessarily the same ones. “There’s a learning curve for us of what are the right shows to be at,” Bill says.

The company is also preparing for future growth from a facilities standpoint. Currently operating out of a 33,000-square-foot space in southeast Naples, it’s feeling capacity pressure from a boost in demand from its automotive clients, who’ve been working to concentrate their entire supply chains within North America over the last several years. “And we think that trend is going to continue, particularly if the USMCA gets approved,” Bill says.

That increase in demand will likely create a need for new equipment, which will be tough to squeeze into already tight space. The company is looking around the area for existing facilities in the 50,000-square-foot range and is considering one in Collier County. The Alico Road corridor in Lee County is also a target area, especially because it’s closer to where many of Pelican Wire’s 82 Southwest Florida employees live. (The company also operates another facility in Colorado with some 75 employees, from its 2012 acquisition of Rubadue Wire.)

To better serve those employees, Pelican Wire added comprehensive paid family leave to its benefits package over the summer. “We have a lot of baby boomers who have been gradually retiring, so we’ve put an emphasis on trying to find new talent,” Bill says. “And with younger talent comes more babies. We see the national trend toward doing it, so it became 'How do we respond to that to make sure we’re being aggressive and maintaining a great benefits package that makes people want to stay?'”

That ability to adapt and overcome challenges is why Pelican Wire won the 2019 Blue Chip Community Business Award presented by McGriff Insurance Services. “I don’t think there’s always an appreciation for the risks that people take when they start their own business,” says Bill, the son of company founders Larry and Teresa Bill. “It’s only in hindsight that you realize the kind of mountains you’re able to scale and the adversities you’re able to overcome. The award is a wonderful recognition of the work that has gone into making this a successful business.”

That work continues. Although Pelican Wire and Rubadue Wire will continue operating under their well-known names within their industries, efforts have been taken to make the two businesses work like one company. Common business processes like a new enterprise resource planning system have already been set up, and a move was underway in December to rebrand under the name Wire Experts Group.

“It’s a way to rally everyone together as a single company,” Bill says. “We’re trying to do a lot of things to prepare ourselves for the next acquisition, so the next time we buy a company we can come in and say here’s how we do business.”

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