Lab-Volt of Wall sold to German company for over $20M [Asbury Park Press, N.J. :: ]
(Asbury Park Press (NJ) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 21--WALL -- Lab-Volt, a Wall-based company that makes electronic equipment for community colleges, has been sold to a German company for more than $20 million, officials said Friday, paving the way for the first change in leadership in 40 years.
Lab-Volt's 81-year-old chief executive officer, Peter Schluter, said he will retire and sounded content that Festo Didactic planned to keep the Wall operation intact.
"We have some great young people ready to take over and carry on," Schluter said. "It's a good fit."
Lab-Volt has 80 employees in Wall as part of a 250-employee company with offices worldwide. It is on track for $50 million in sales this year, Schluter said. Among the products it has made are telecommunications equipment for students at Brookdale Community College in Middletown.
At first glance, it should be a growing industry. Enrollment in community colleges is expanding as students try to improve their skills and keep up in a fast-changing economy. But the publicly funded colleges don't have unlimited budgets.
"The work force needs a higher level of education than in the past," said Kent Phillippe, associate vice president at the American Association of Community Colleges, a trade group in Washington, D.C. "The question becomes, what are colleges doing to provide that educational opportunity and experience?"
For Lab-Volt, it marks the first management change since 1974, when Schluter, a manufacturing consultant who specialized in international business, bought a 31 percent stake in a company called Buck Engineering Co. He viewed it as an opportunity; vocational education in the U.S. was on the decline, but the company could grow by selling its products overseas.
Today, the company has a manufacturing plant in Quebec, Canada, its products can be found from Algeria to Venezuela, and its sales have grown tenfold -- although Schluter noted that's not adjusted for inflation.
Privately-owned Festo Didactic has 16,700 employees in 250 offices worldwide, along with sales of €2.3 billion, or about $3.1 billion, in 2013.
Schluter, a Little Silver resident, said Festo executives approached him recently about selling the company. After 40 years, he decided the time was right.
"This has been my life for 40 years," he said Friday afternoon. "I've gotten up every day and known what I've had to do that day. Obviously, it's going to be a big blank; what am I going to do the next day? It's a big void, and I'll have to see how that fills up in the future."
Michael L. Diamond; 732-643-4038; firstname.lastname@example.org
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