By Carlos David Mogollón
WC&P Executive Editor
A major announcement in mid-April 2001 positions Sta-Rite Industries Inc. to be an even bigger player among independent assemblers and the point-of-use/point-of-entry water treatment industry dealer network.
Sta-Rite and Clack Corp. entered into an agreement for Clack to become the key distributor of Park International tanks. Prior to this, Clack was the distributor for Pentair’s Structural tanks, according to Sta-Rite vice president Mark Bertler. The move is the latest among several in recent years placing Sta-Rite more strategically within the highly competitive POU/POE market, Bertler notes.
Sta-Rite began as a well pump manufacturer in 1934 in Delavan, Wis. Today, its products encompass pumps for a range of applications, water treatment products, agricultural- and industrial-related components and accessories. It does not provide completed systems except through its retail filter brand Omnifilter, which markets through Big Box and do-it-yourself channels with clients such as Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and General Electric. With products made in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, México, New Zealand and Russia, Sta-Rite distributes to customers in over 100 countries.
Sta-Rite’s transition began four years ago when it reorganized as the manufacturing arm of WICOR Industries. WICOR’s “energy” arm, at the time, was comprised of Wisconsin Gas, a natural gas utility. At the same time, Sta-Rite bought Hydro-Flow of Murrieta, Calif., which specializes in plastic extrusion and makes inline and cartridge water filters, housings, UV filters, shower filters and accessories. A year later, it bought Dover, N.H.’s Fibredyne, which specializes in carbon block molding. And last August, it acquired Park.
Sta-Rite has since reorganized into global business units that include a Water Systems Group, Pool & Spa Group and Water Treatment Group. Manufacturing reports to group vice presidents, who coordinate customer relations for streamlined point-of-contact and more efficient operations, said Bertler, who spent five years with USFilter’s Process Water Group and eight with Arrowhead Filter before joining Sta-Rite in 1999. Leveraging related synergy between the companies, international marketing efforts have been refocused with a boost in manufacturing capabilities.
“For instance, we’re adding additional tank capacity, which will be coming online this month [April]. That’s probably a testament to pretty strong demand for the product,” Bertler said. “Again, [with Park] we’ve taken a private company that probably wasn’t in a position to make the capital investment and enabled it to grow globally. We still have plant capacity in Long Beach, Calif. We’ll add another third of capacity to that. It’s a seven-figure investment.” Sta-Rite also is investing in expanding Fibredyne’s manufacturing capacity, he added.
To find out more on Sta-Rite’s expansion, its venture with Clack and Bertler’s views on factors affecting the water treatment industry, go to the WC&P website—https://wcponline.com—and click on the “Executive Q&A” button.
Companies: Hydro-Flow, Fibredyne Inc. and Park International
Sister companies: SHURflo, Hypro Corp.
Organization: Sta-Rite is a subsidiary of the holding company WICOR Industries, which was bought by Wisconsin Energy Corp. in April 2000. Wisconsin Energy, which includes electric and natural gas utility operations, has annual revenues of $3.3 billion. WICOR has revenues of $1.2 billion, of which $600 million is in non-utility manufacturing operations. Sta-Rite, which makes up $415 million of that, has three global business units—Water Systems Group ($265 million), Pool & Spa Group ($100 million) and Water Treatment Group ($55 million). Sta-Rite expects an additional $40 million in 2001 sales.