WASHINGTON, Mo. - Parker Hannifin Corp.'s recent acquisition of Sporlan Valve Co. made some big news in the trade press, but officials at both companies were quick to assure contractors, wholesalers, and dealers that it will be "business as usual" with both entities, even as they continue to explore ways to grow and complement each other.

"Sporlan is a very successful company we've admired for a long time," said Lynn Cortright, president of Parker's Climate and Industrial Controls Group. "Together, our companies will have the most complete offering of valves and controls for the widest range of applications in the refrigeration and air conditioning market today. From supermarket to ice machines to residential and commercial air conditioning, Parker and Sporlan will have the ability to deliver total systems to our customers."

Sporlan president Ken Ohlemeyer is just as enthusiastic.

"We've respected Parker for many years," he told The News, taking time out recently to discuss the move - with Cortright present - at Sporlan's Washington, Mo., headquarters. "When it became clear that Sporlan was ready to enter a new level of growth, Parker quickly emerged as the best partner. Parker's global infrastructure presents a great opportunity to expand the reach of Sporlan's products all over the world. I'm confident that joining Parker will offer our customers significant advantages."

"Sporlan is synonymous with quality and is made up of hardworking employees and a management team that knows how to deliver profitability," Cortright said. "At Parker, we value all of these characteristics. We want Sporlan to continue to operate very much as it always has. Our focus is on growing the business globally and achieving even greater value together."

Looking Ahead

For the record, Parker is making Sporlan a new division within Parker's Climate and Industrial Controls Group. Other than that change, employees at Sporlan have been urged to relax, as Parker has announced plans to expand, meaning Sporlan likely will be upsizing in the future - not downsizing. Sporlan's 1,000 employees were informed of the possible acquisition in July.

"Cautious," is how Ohlemeyer described the immediate reaction from his workers and team. "We've been privately held for 70 years. The community has seen other companies purchased by other larger operations and the results have not been always favorable."

He does not see those same problems in this case. In truth, he believes the move will be beneficial.

"This is an opportunity for our younger people to expand their horizons," said Ohlemeyer.

"Parker is a large company with many interesting divisions. There may be opportunities with other divisions for some of our people. We have a very strong cadre of talented people at all expanded management levels. This can be an evolution for their development."

Cortright could not have agreed more. "As a global company, Parker can offer Sporlan employees many different and unique opportunities they may not have had in the past," he said, leaning back in his chair. "The one thing I certainly saw is that there are a lot of good people here. This improves our chances of growing faster around the world."

"I detect a considerable degree of comfort," added Ohlemeyer, relaying how employees have taken the news over the past few months. "Everyone knows this is progress."

Sporlan President Ken Ohlemeyer (right) shows some of his company’s product offerings to Lynn Cortright, president of Parker’s Climate and Industrial Controls Group. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Missourian.)

Helping Each Other Grow

With the acquisition, Ohlemeyer sees Parker helping Sporlan financially, supplying its expertise in the manufacturing side of the business, plus filling in with products his company may not currently offer. Meanwhile, Cortright noted what Sporlan brings to the table for Parker.

"One tremendous asset, of course, Sporlan brings to Parker is this name brand that they developed over all of these years," he said.

"They are also extremely strong in the aftermarket side of business. Sporlan also brings strength in refrigeration, where Parker has traditionally been stronger in air conditioning. There will be no one in the world with as complete a line as that we're now able to offer to this market."

When Sporlan's management team met together with Parker management people recently, Jim Jaye, marketing communications manager, Parker's Climate and Industrial Controls Group, could not help but comment on the collective experience of those present.

"We had a meeting yesterday where we went around the room and everyone kind of introduced themselves," he said. "I think we had 500 years of refrigeration experience in the room. I think Lynn Cortright said it best then - ‘If we can't figure out an industry challenge between these two companies, then probably no one is going to.'"

He added, "Even as we were talking this week, things kept popping up, like, ‘Wow, we could do this now' and ‘We could do this now.' And, ‘You guys have this.' And, ‘You guys have that.'"

Said Ohlemeyer, "We are learning a lot about each other."

Meshing Electronics With Mechanicals

Strategically speaking, Cortright sees Sporlan's capabilities with electronics meshing with Parker's mechanical capabilities.

"This marriage between electronics and the mechanicals is a very important thing as we look down the road," he said.

"What we're seeing in this industry is this migration of the mechanicals up to the electronics and the electronics down to the mechanicals. We have to have the package that together these two companies now have in order to strategically move forward."

But, again, this does not mean drastic infrastructure changes within each company will be occurring.

"I don't see our wholesale distribution policy and network changing," assured Ohlemeyer. "I don't see any change in the way we approach our manufacturing accounts. We will continue to provide the technical expertise we've always provided."

Added Cortright, "I don't see any big change at all. There will be changes in growth, but that will be just doing more of what we're doing. The Sporlan staff is intact. Sporlan management will run this business just like they've been running this business. We don't see those kinds of changes. Parker doesn't think it needs to be fixed."

Piped in Ohlemeyer, "This change is going to be transparent."

Publication date: 11/01/2004