June 02--The Holden company that built the "Spirit of Louisiana" fire truck that Louisianians donated to New York after the 2001 terrorist attacks has been sold to a Wisconsin company that makes everything from luxury recreational vehicles to street sweepers.
The REV Group paid an undisclosed price for Ferrara Fire Apparatus, which did $165 million in sales in 2016 and employs about 450 workers at its 110,000-square-foot manufacturing facility off Interstate 12 in Livingston Parish.
In a statement, Chris Ferrara, president and chief executive officer, said he decided to step back and reduce his involvement with the business he founded 36 years ago. He will take on an advisory role, but not be involved with day-to-day activities. Bert McCutcheon, who has worked with the company for 26 years in a variety of roles, including chief operating officer, will take over Ferrara's duties with the business.
Ferrara founded the company in 1979 when he was a firefighter with the Central Volunteer Fire Department. The department needed a new water tanker but didn't have the money to pay for it. Ferrara, who was working as a pipefitter and fabricator, built the tanker along with other volunteers.
Ferrara said the sale, which closed April 25, is a great step for the company because it will provide more resources, funding and a larger customer base. REV also makes fire trucks.
"Rest assured, Ferrara will still be the same company and continue to make the same reliable, heavy-duty Ferrara products," he said.
In January, Ferrara told The Advocate he was forecasting a 5 percent increase in company sales during 2017 because of pent-up demand and expectations for more infrastructure spending in the U.S.
The REV Group, which is based in Milwaukee, projects $2.3 billion in sales during the current fiscal year. The company went public with its stock in January.
REV is made up of 29 specialty brands, including American Coach recreational vehicles, Eldorado Bus and American Emergency Vehicles. Those brands combined to manufacture more than 240,000 vehicles that are currently in service, including ambulances, shuttle vans, transit buses, wheelchair accessible vans and trucks used at freight terminals.
REV Group has more than 6,000 employees at 19 manufacturing plants across the U.S. The company had been known as Allied Specialty Vehicles, but changed its name in November 2015.
According to CNBC, the company has the largest share of the ambulance, school bus and medium-sized commercial bus markets. REV Group is ranked among the top two businesses in the fire apparatus and terminal truck markets.
REV officials said the acquisition of Ferrara beefs up the company's line of fire brands, enables a number of new growth opportunities and adds new geographic regions. The company's brands are mostly concentrated in the Midwest, although there are operations in Texas, Florida and North Carolina.
"Ferrara further strengthens our brand offering of fire apparatus vehicles and market presence, adding a diverse product portfolio that is complementary to our line of great American-made specialty vehicles," said Tim Sullivan, REV Group's chief executive officer. "Ferrara will immediately contribute strategic value by expanding the REV Fire Group national footprint, dealer sales network, service and aftermarket parts revenue, as well as enhancing our robust line of custom chassis and aerial products for multiple market segments."
Ferrara had been based in Baton Rouge until 1994, when it moved into a 110,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Holden. That manufacturing facility has expanded several times since then.
The Ferrara-made "Spirit of Louisiana" rolled into New York in December 2001, less than four months after the terrorist attacks that toppled the World Trade Center towers and ravaged the city's fire department. The $500,000 firetruck came from donations by Louisianians to replace one of the three dozen fire vehicles destroyed Sept. 11.
The fundraising effort and fire truck donation was the brainchild of a caller to then-Gov. Mike Foster during his weekly live radio show.
The 1,000-gallon-a-minute pumper truck took a three-day trip that included nationally televised stops at the Superdome in New Orleans and the White House's South Lawn. The journey ended behind the red, roll-up doors of an aging three-bay Engine Company 283 firehouse in the run-down Brownsville section of Brooklyn.
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