Bruno to swap buildings to accommodate growth, acquisition

Bruno Independent Living Aids, which plans to acquire additional product lines from another company soon, is swapping buildings with a neighbor in the Oconomowoc Corporate Center to accommodate that growth.
"We have notified our employees we are doing it on both sides," Bruno chief executive officer and chairman Michael Bruno said of the building trade with a yet-to-be-named neighboring company on Enterprise Drive.
Bruno will swap its 30,000-square-foot building at 1745 Executive Dr. for its neighbor’s 50,000-square-foot building.
"We were talking about it as early as last summer," Bruno said. "They approached us. We were going to build a fourth building. … We were going to take the corner lot across the way from us, where we can put up a 40,000-square-foot building. We decided not to do that, but to do the trade."
Bruno said the larger building would be expanded by another 25,000 square feet to provide more adequate space for the manufacture of existing product lines and to make way for product lines currently manufactured by the Swedish firm, Autoadapt-Bev, AB, which Bruno recently acquired.
The purchase brings to the Bruno fold Autoadapt’s 80 employees and plants in Boras and Stenkullen, Sweden, and offices in Stockholm, Sweden, and Birmingham, England.
For the last three years, Bruno had been the North American distributor for Autoadapt’s Turning Automotive Seating products.
"We have actually assisted them in redesign of their products," Bruno said. "There are different regulations here than in Europe. And we have a population that is a bit heavier than most Europeans."
Bruno also worked closely with Autoadapt to create market share in North America, starting from nothing and then doubling in volume for two subsequent years.
Autoadapt also specializes in high-tech systems to assist the disabled in driving, including hand controls and customization of vehicles. The company was first brought to Bruno’s attention by Andrew Beyer, who joined Bruno three years ago after leaving his own vehicle customization business, which served as a Bruno distributor.
"Mike had family in Sweden and raved about these products," Bruno said.
The acquisition was negotiated largely by company president Michael Bruno II, the elder Bruno said. In the wake of the deal, the younger Bruno will be named co-CEO with his father.
"Mike has been managing many of the day-to-day operations of the company," the father said of his son. "This seems like a suitable transition."
Aggressive growth planned
Combined sales for the two companies are forecasted to be more than $70 million in 2003.
However, the Bruno firm plans additional growth by acquiring the product lines of a US company early this year.
"We are still negotiating a deal with a company from out-of-state on three products," Bruno said. "It is a company in our industry."
The acquisition of Autoadapt’s facilities and sales force, which covers Europe effectively, will also enable Bruno’s sales force to more aggressively pursue market share in the North America, South America, Asia and Mexico.
Due to the aging of the population and the fact many of the disabled customers are reimbursed by government programs for mobility-related expenses, the company should continue to grow, despite any economic downturns that might affect other manufacturers.
However, Bruno is concerned that a war in Iraq could force him to adjust the company’s projected growth curve.
"When there is a concern about war, older people don’t like to spend money," Bruno said.
Jan. 10, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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