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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 2 years ago

After making acquisition, area manufacturer plans expansion

CEO Steve Dawson says Harmar is looking to expand in Sarasota.

It’s been about a year since Sarasota-based Harmar Mobility, which makes vehicle lifts, stair lifts and vehicle platform lifts, acquired the mobility device lift product division from Pennsylvania-based Pride Mobility.

The acquisition has moved the needle at Harmar, owned by New York-based private equity firm Cortec Group. “We acquired Pride with the goal of increasing our share in the market, and we think we did that,” Harmar CEO Steve Dawson tells Coffee Talk

It’s renaming the Pride products as The Paragon Series, part of the company’s transition arrangement with Pride. “We wanted to select a name that continued the good tradition of the Pride products,” Dawson says.

In addition to the vehicle lifts that were part of the acquisition, the division also included threshold ramps for scooters and wheelchairs. It’s a smaller product line, Dawson says, but it’s been popular — a nice surprise. Many customers also decide to purchase a ramp when they order a lift.

Harmar, Dawson says, is beating profit goals from what it originally planned. “Our goal is to be No. 1 in each of our product categories,” he says. “We’ve already done that in vehicle lifts. Our strategy in 2020 to be leader in stair lifts as well.”

Since the acquisition, the company accelerated the insourcing of manufacturing into its own factory instead of continuing to have products made by a third party. The decision to bring manufacturing in-house allows Harmar to control lead times, pricing and quality. The process took resources, time and staff, Dawson says, but the result is worth it. “It’s way better to control your own manufacturing,” he says.

Now that more activity has been squeezed into the facility, Harmar is looking to expand in Sarasota. It’s looking for a larger space, and a move would likely occur in two phases, with offices moving first and factory space second. Its current space is about 60,000 square feet. Dawson says the company needs 100,000 to 125,000 square feet. “We’re a bit tight today,” he says. He hopes the company can move into a new office in the next four to six months and a new factory in the next year to year and a half.

In the meantime, Harmar plans to continue to grow its employee base, which company-wide stands at 220. “We’re constantly hiring right now,” Dawson says. “We’re definitely in hiring mode.”

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