MORRIS: Under-the-radar group builds success

April 20, 2013

MorrisThe Indiana chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth held its annual Corporate Value Awards dinner April 18. Three companies were recognized for their success: Mainstreet Property Group, Grammer Industries and the Braun Corp.

You may not be aware of ACG and what it does. Founded in 1954, ACG is a global organization with 57 chapters for executives involved in corporate growth, corporate development, and mergers and acquisitions for Fortune 500 and middle-market companies.

ACG’s 14,000 members include professionals from private equity firms, corporations and lenders that invest in middle-market companies, as well as from law, accounting, investment banking and other firms that provide advisory services. With about 140 members here in Indiana, ACG-Indiana helps raise capital and grow businesses.

Steve Appel, vice president of corporate development at Gregory & Appel, is the outgoing president of the ACG-Indiana board. The incoming president is Mark Hollis, principal and director of business development at Centerfield Capital Partners. The remaining board members are a who’s who of Indiana’s investment and deal-making community.

At the awards event, Mainstreet Property Group was recognized with the Small Cap Corporate Value Award. The firm, which just announced it’s moving from Cicero to Carmel, is the nation’s largest developer of skilled nursing facilities and is committed to improving long-term care and fundamentally changing how seniors housing is regarded. Since Mainstreet’s founding in 2002, the company has experienced incredible growth due to a comprehensive approach of acquiring, developing and occasionally operating properties that bring a sense of dignity and pride to the senior population.

One key to Mainstreet’s success has been access to capital. Most notably, last June, Mainstreet was instrumental in creating HealthLease Properties REIT, a public company in Canada (traded on the Toronto Exchange HLP.UN) of which Mainstreet is the largest shareholder.

Mainstreet last year developed more than $100 million in facilities accounting for more than 2,000 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs; more than 80 percent of those jobs were created in Indiana.

Grammer Industries was recognized with the ACG’s Large Cap Corporate Value Award. Headquartered in south central Indiana, Grammer was founded by Charles “Shorty” Whittington in 1977. Shorty’s vision for a specialized transportation company was the result of his longtime work in the field of agriculture and his roots in the farming communities of Indiana.

Through both organic growth and strategic acquisitions, the company has developed into a premier transporter of hazardous materials. The hazardous nature of Grammer’s cargo makes safety the company’s top priority. As a result, Grammer operates a modern, meticulously maintained tanker fleet that uses the most technologically advanced equipment available in the transportation industry.

ACG’s Deal of the Year award went to the Braun Corp., which makes products for the disabled. Braun changed its ownership structure last year, adding a senior management group and two strategic investors.

Company founder Ralph Braun grew up in rural Indiana in the 1940s. He was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 6 and began using a wheelchair shortly thereafter. Ralph wasn’t deterred—he made it his mission to have an education, a career and a family like anyone else, even if he had to invent that independence himself.

The first mobility product Ralph engineered was a motorized scooter. Next, he outfitted an old postal-service Jeep with hand controls and a hydraulic lift, giving individuals with disabilities a way to travel independently. Braun was incorporated in 1972, and for much of that decade and the next, Braun’s product line was built on the wheelchair lift, which made many forms of transportation, including school buses, accessible.

Braun marked its 40th anniversary last year. The international company employs nearly 1,000 and is still headquartered in Ralph’s hometown of Winamac. Today, the leading worldwide provider of wheelchair lifts and accessible vehicles has five locations in the United States and a successful joint venture in Sweden.

Ralph Braun passed away in February, but his vision for an accessible world is realized daily for hundreds of thousands of people with physical disabilities around the world.

I’m always pleased to pass along the successful stories of companies like Braun, Grammer and Mainstreet. Certainly, the members of the Indiana Chapter of ACG help make those success stories possible.•


Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.

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