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For decades, Genie Industries was one of Redmond's best-kept secrets. Its blue people-lifting machines were ubiquitous at construction sites around North America, but the once privately held company remained nearly invisible in the local community, eschewing press coverage.
But now, five years after being acquired by Westport, Conn.-based Terex Corp., and 10 months after getting new President Tim Ford, Genie is rapidly changing into a global company, and one that's much more accessible to the outside world.
"We're making the transition from Genie being a company, which it is ... toward philosophically thinking about Genie being a brand. That's a big transition to make, for the organization," said Ford, 45.
Tucked into an industrial area just blocks east of Redmond's bustling Whole Foods Market, Genie Industries' 10 leased buildings cover 843,350 square feet. The company employs 3,200 people in Redmond and 5,000 worldwide, making it the city's second-largest private employer after Microsoft.
And Genie is growing fast. It makes up 75 percent of Terex's Aerial Work Platform division, which grew 41 percent between 2005 and 2006, and hit $1.7 billion in sales in the first nine months of fiscal 2007. Terex itself, headquartered in Westport, Conn., grew 20 percent last year to $7.6 billion in 2006 sales.
Genie's machines lift workers, and to a lesser degree materials, up to job sites. The machines are the ladders of the 21st century, and Genie makes them in a wide array of sizes and configurations. Small battery-powered scissor lifts can operate within existing buildings, while the largest machines are driven by internal combustion engines, and can reach more than 100 feet into the air. Nearly every machine Genie makes is the same cyan blue, chosen by the founders in the 1970s.
"What these products do is replace the need for scaffolding, in a more productive, and safer manner ... Boom products are much safer, in terms of worker safety," Ford said.
Genie is one of the two largest producers of people-lifting equipment in the world, each controlling about 40 percent of the global market. Its main competitor is JLG Industries Inc. of McConnellsburg, Pa., which is of similar size and which makes a similar line of products. JLG is owned by Oshkosh Trucking Corp., of Oshkosh, Wis.
Around the world, Ford is re-creating Genie into a global entity that is developing a significant manufacturing presence in Europe and Asia, to serve its customers there. Most of Genie's current growth is from overseas markets, particularly in Europe, where sales this year are up 46 percent over last year. While the company has historically sold two-thirds of its production in North America, Ford said the Asian and European portions are growing fast enough to eventually account for two-thirds of the total.