Ted Bell is selling Bell Canoe Works to ORC Industries of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Bell announced Monday, Oct. 2. Production will move from Princeton, Minnesota, to La Crosse, over the next 90 days or so. And they’re hiring Dave Kruger, formerly of We-no-nah, to oversee production.
ORC Industries is a 40-year-old nonprofit established to provide employment for people with disabilities. Its primary business has been manufacturing apparel for the military, but in the last year has sought to branch out into the outdoor industry. “As government contracting has grown more volatile, with volumes going up and down, we’ve decided to focus on the outdoor industry, on companies that are labor-intensive and somewhat immune to outsourcing,” said Todd Bahnub, vice president of ORC Industries. “And we’re looking at companies with a lot of brand equity, with a reputation as very high-quality.”
See the official ORC Industries press release here.
Last year they bought Redfeather snowshoes as an entry into the outdoor market, and Bahnub said that Bell Canoe should provide a good seasonal balance to the manufacturing cycle.
“We have significant depth in engineering, manufacturing, and quality control. That’s our forte,” Bahnub said. “For the advertising and marketing pieces, we connect with what we think are the best agencies to fulfill those needs.”
ORC plans to continue Bell’s focus on high-end boats and working through specialty retailers, he said.
Ted Bell will continue to work with ORC over at least the next three years. He’ll oversee the production transition and work to get the new production line up and running, and then be involved “however they want me to be,” he said.
Bahnub said he’s excited about the Bell acquisition. “I’m not a paddler now, but I’m going to be,” he said. “I’m reading up on Rushton right now. Bell boats are works of art. I saw [freestyle canoeist] Karen Knight at Outdoor Retailer, and it was a thing of beauty.”
Ted Bell said the sale came up suddenly and wasn’t something he’d been looking for. “We were just starting about trying to raise some capital to help out with our inventory situation, and these guys called me out of the blue,” he said. ORC first approached him in mid-summer, he said.