The Garden City Telegram
4/16/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Family plan

Tank manufacturer's future should stay on right track.

Deciding to sell a family business can be difficult.

And so it was for Garden City's O'Brate family, which recently opted to sell its family-owned business — Palmer Manufacturing & Tank Inc. — to another firm.

Worthington Industries Inc., based in Columbus, Ohio, announced recently that its pressure cylinders segment has acquired Palmer Manufacturing, founded in 1971 in Garden City.

Palmer, which employs approximately 200 people, makes steel and fiberglass tanks and processing equipment for the oil and gas industry, and custom manufactured fiberglass tanks for agricultural, chemical and general industrial applications.

With 184,000 square feet of manufacturing space, Palmer reportedly generated $70 million in sales in its last fiscal year.

Palmer owner Cecil O'Brate said the decision to sell the business was easier to make because, as he said, Worthington has a record of being "very, very good to their people."

O'Brate understandably has an interest in his workers' futures.

"These people have been my family for 47 years," he said.

O'Brate said no operations at Palmer would be moved, every current employee would keep their job and Worthington planned to add a second shift and more workers.

In discussing the transaction, O'Brate also sized up Worthington as a welcome corporate citizen in Finney County.

"They support the community wherever they're at. They know I support (it), and they'll continue to support it. As far as economic growth, they intend to double the productivity, so that will be good for the city," he said.

To go along with that bright forecast, it also was encouraging to hear Worthington officials discuss how the acquisition of Palmer would help accelerate that company's growth. Worthington, a diversified metals manufacturing company, reported $2.5 billion in sales in its fiscal year 2012, with operations across the globe.

That said, changes in ownership often materialize under a cloud of uncertainty.

Should the firm taking over operations at Palmer live up to expectations — and benefit the community as a whole with new jobs and the promise of ongoing work at the Garden City plant — it would be a more than welcome development on the local economic front.