Rival buys First Aid Only for $13.8M

Production will stay, expand in Vancouver

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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First Aid Only, a Vancouver-based maker of first aid kits, has a new corporate owner that plans to maintain and expand production in Vancouver.

Acme United Corp. of Connecticut, a publicly traded maker of cutting and safety products, this week acquired First Aid Only for $13.8 million in cash. Acme is itself a maker of first aid products and had been a competitor of First Aid Only, said Brian Olschan, Acme’s president and chief operations officer. “We’ve been competing with them for a very long time,” said Olschan, who visited his company’s new acquisition on Thursday.

First Aid Only, 11101 N.E. 37th Circle, promotes its first aid kits as made in the USA. A key customer for First Aid Only’s products is the American Red Cross, and Olschan said the license to make the Red Cross kits is a valuable asset in the acquisition. The Vancouver company, which reported revenues of $17.3 million in 2013, has about 100 employees. Mark Miller, First Aid Only’s founder, will continue to run the Vancouver facility, Olschan said. The First Aid Only brand will remain unchanged.

“This operation is going to stay here,” Olschan said. We love the team here, we see lots of opportunity.” He anticipated that Acme would make capital investments in Vancouver over the next 12 to 18 months. While projecting a capacity expansion both through mechanization and staffing increases, Olschan said employment levels aren’t likely to increase significantly.

First Aid Only, established about 25 years ago, hit a pre-recession peak of some 200 employees and $26 million in annual revenues, the company said during a 2012 tour of its facility by Mayor Tim Leavitt and other local officials. But those numbers dropped in the face of stiff competition from firms using lower-cost products from foreign factories, founder and CEO Mark Miller said during that 2012 tour.

The company moved into commercial first aid products, supplying products to American Red Cross and other emergency providers, and creating first aid kits for fundraisers.

Acme’s first aid products sell under the PhysiciansCare and Pac-Kit brands. Most are made in Norwalk, Conn., and Olschan said it would be premature to say whether some of that production would shift to Vancouver. The production of the combined company would put it among the top-10 producers of first aid kits in the U.S., Olschan said.

Acme reported earnings of $19.2 million for the quarter ending March 31, compared to $17.7 million in the first quarter of 2013. Olschan said he expects sales of first aid products overall to continue growing at the current pace of high-single digits to low double-digits annually.