College's small-business center helps Pulaski firm grow rapidly

SUNY Oswego’s Small Business Development Center actively assisted a Pulaski company that made the 2011 Inc. 5000 list and has started building air filtration systems and components here that had been built in China.

HealthWay, a global leader in air quality solutions for hotels, medical centers and homes, rang in at No. 3480 on the list of the nation’s fastest growing private, entrepreneurial companies, on the strength of 50 percent revenue growth in three years and a surge in employees from 22 to 41.

Vincent Lobdell, president of the company also known as HealthWay Home Products and a 30-year veteran in the indoor air quality business, credited senior business adviser Larry Perras of the SBDC with helping his company obtain working capital and other lines of credit for rapid expansion to take advantage of exploding overseas markets for green buildings with allergen-free air systems.

“I guess it’s been close to two years when we first met,” Lobdell said. “We were assembling a program to go out to banks for certain (financing) tools and lines.”

Key discussions

Lobdell said Perras reviewed and commented on the financing plan—as the college-based small-business center would do for any area company looking to expand— before it was to undergo the scrutiny of Pathfinder Bank, the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency and KeyBank.

“The opportunity to work with Larry and the SBDC gave us another set of eyes and ideas on how to present, rework and basically position the information in a way that was specifically for the people who were going to look at our business and needed to see how the business performs,” Lobdell said.

Perras said he worked with the lending authorities in the effort to obtain for HealthWay the largest working capital loan, $500,000, ever made by the Oswego County IDA.

“Vince did the narrative piece, sent it to me and I reviewed it and helped him work through it,” Perras said. “I felt we should focus on certain areas I knew lending authorities would be interested in—they are really interested in management and management experience. It kind of helped Vince focus on the market and its potential, his management background and what the opportunities are for his products.”

HealthWay had worked with a research arm of the U.S. government to develop a patented technology for an air-filtration system that’s 100 percent efficient in removing bio-organisms, Lobdell said. The company began with portable units for the home, but has scaled up to rooftop air-filtration units and inline air handlers for green buildings.

Manufacturing jobs

Perras also introduced Lobdell to the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the U.S. Commerce Department’s programs for small-business exports, to assist Lobdell with his effort to serve the exploding interest in green building in India, China, Taiwan and Indonesia, and to capitalize on currency values favoring U.S. exports.

Working with the Pure Room brand of hotel rooms, HealthWay has contracted for rooftop and individual-room air-filtration systems for a 400-room hotel in India, with 10 more hotels in the pipeline, Lobdell said.

HealthWay presently is negotiating to double its manufacturing space in Pulaski and again increase its work force to keep up with current and forecast demand.

Perras said the SBDC, based in Rich Hall at SUNY Oswego in the Office of Business and Community Relations, routinely helps entrepreneurial startups as well as established businesses such as HealthWay that want to expand or restructure.

He urged entrepreneurs not to wait until they have a polished business plan to approach the SBDC for assistance.

“Someone who’s interested in starting a business does not have to have its act together before they come to see us,” Perras said. “We’d really like to see them when they have just the concept in their mind, and we can work with them to develop that. They don’t have to be going for an SBA-guaranteed loan or something like that. We can assist each step of the way in building a business.”

To contact the SBDC, visit http://www.oswego.edu/obcr or call 315-312-3492.


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(Posted: Sep 28, 2011)

Tags: economic development