CHURUBUSCO — When Dick Conrow was considering selling the company he spent his lifetime building, he didn’t take that decision lightly.
A discussion that has been ongoing for years, Conrow and C&A Tool Vice President Rob Marr found New Hampshire Ball Bearing to be the perfect fit — not only for their business needs, but the needs of all their employees and the Churubusco community.
“We’ve been in a long process,” said Marr. “We started this years and years ago, evaluating our options. We looked at a number of opportunities and we thought this was the best match.”
The decision was announced Aug. 10 at one of C&A Tool’s Churubusco facilities. The sale to New Hampshire Ball Bearing is expected to be made final Sept. 1. NHBB is owned by a parent company, Minebbea Mitsumi, out of Japan.
Conrow had one important question for potential buyers of C&A Tool: “Why do you want to purchase C&A Tool?”
“The proper answer was to take and expand on what we’ve already done here,” Conrow said. “That’s what is best for the well-being and security of everyone here.”
Out of the 465 companies that responded to C&A Tool’s “tickler,” indicating Conrow was considering selling the business, about 20 potential buyers visited the company,
“It is highly unusual to find that much interest,” Conrow said.
Many people don’t know the company that started in Conrow’s garage in 1969, offers many unique, specialized services — one of few in the country — and Conrow says that’s what made it so appealing.
“A lot of people don’t know what goes on here,” Conrow said. “We’re very diverse and specialized.”
For instance, the hydraulic manifolds that will adjust the rockets for the first manned trip to Mars were created by C&A Tool, additionally, its parts can be found on Ford and Dodge trucks, CAT and Cummins heavy duty equipment, and orthopedic parts, even as complex as spinal implants.
“The level of sophistication we have with our equipment is difficult to describe, even when talking to someone who’s in the business,” Conrow said.
C&A Tool has many parallel customers with NHBB — not the same product, but the same customer base. Minebbea Mitsumi has strong activity in the same markets internationally, Marr says. Though C&A Tool will continue to work independently, NHBB will offer more as a large public company, such as assistance in sales organization, support with IT, accounting, attorneys and international opportunities, as well as sharing best practices.
Employees and Churubusco residents shouldn’t expect any major changes to the company, other than expected growth in the coming years.
“This is a great opportunity for the Churubusco area,” Marr said. “Their desire is for us to continue to grow. I’ll be very surprised if there aren’t new jobs.”
Marr said there are goals set to double sales out of C&A Tool in the coming years.
Conrow and Marr began looking at a succession plan to ensure the future of the company.
“We had an obligation to everyone here to come up with a succession plan that would work for everyone,” Marr said.
With the changeover, Conrow will be taking a step back from his role as president, which will be assumed by Marr, who has been with C&A Tool for 35 years.
C&A Tool will continue consolidating its 13 buildings in downtown Churubusco, which has been part of the plan as the company has evolved.
Conrow assures his employees and the community that his decisions come from long term plans.
“We’ve been laying the groundwork for where we are right now,” Conrow said. “If we didn’t take the time and make the selection we made for the community, Sarah (his wife) and I would have to move out of town.”
Conrow hopes the company continues to be a great place for people to work, as there are several third-generation employees at C&A Tool. In total, C&A Tool has between 580-600 employees between its Churubusco facilities and its 100,000-square-foot facility in Auburn.