Fuel Safe Systems: Utilizing Central Oregon’s Ecosystem to Advance

Bend, Ore., June 4, 2020 – EDCO’s mission is to help diversify the economy and create living-wage jobs. This is done by helping the traded sector – those companies that export their goods and services outside the region and bring the riches home through new job creation and new capital investment – move, start and grow in Central Oregon. As pointed out by Jon Stark, Redmond Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) Senior Director, the assistance provided by EDCO spans further than just “move, start, grow”.

It often requires multiple resources and utilizing Central Oregon’s broad business ecosystem, including EDCO’s vast member and partner networks. It’s about working together to help sustain our local businesses. One example of this at work is a two-year project that came to fruition earlier this year when Fuel Safe Systems‘ longstanding management team acquired the company’s assets.

We sat down with Bill Hare, Fuel Safe Systems’ President, to learn more about the transaction and who in the community was instrumental in facilitating this deal.

EDCO: How and when did the opportunity to acquire Fuel Safe Systems occur? 

Bill: The opportunity to assume ownership of Fuel Safe Systems was something I never expected. When the previous owner, Peter Regna, approached me with the offer to purchase the business in 2018, I was thrilled with the idea of owning the organization I’ve led for nearly 14 years. At the same time, I had no idea where or how to begin the process; enter Jon Stark with REDI.

EDCO: How did Jon Stark / REDI help you?

Bill: Jon sat down with me and helped me create a plan to “eat the elephant” one piece at a time. He connected me with a team of experts across the business community that helped me and my partners, Jay Morrison and Ronda Duran, achieve our goal of purchasing Fuel Safe and the real estate it occupies.

EDCO: Who did Jon Stark connect you to?

Bill:  Jon connected me to many people and resources. Brian Vierra, EDCO’s Venture Catalyst, assisted with business valuation and investment advice. He also referred me to a valuation expert through EDCO’s Stable of Experts. Brian Fratzke with Fratzke Commercial guided us through the purchase of the real estate component. Tom Schnell and Business Oregon supported our efforts via a commercial loan guarantee. Taylor Thompson and the team at Columbia Bank steered us through the intricacies of the SBA loan process. Alison Huycke at Francis, Hansen & Martin LLP supported us from a legal perspective. Brian Newton of Jones and Roth ensured we made sound financial decisions along the way.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a number of people who were also instrumental in this process, I’ll apologize in advance.  I’d like to note, beyond their respective expertise, the single most important thing all of these individuals provided was encouragement and optimism during the two-plus years it took to close this deal.

EDCO: Any final thoughts?

Bill: Thank you to all of the individuals and organizations that helped make this happen, we truly could not have done it with you!

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In business, merger and acquisition activity are the norm, especially for sizable companies like Fuel Safe Systems. It’s less than normal that an employee is given the opportunity to be the acquirer. Too often acquisitions occur by large corporations, potentially moving them out of rural communities to more metropolitan areas. However, in this instance the local buyout results in both future company investment and revenue staying right here in Central Oregon, further cementing the company’s roots in the Redmond community.

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