Graco buys two niche equipment firms

Industrial sprayer and pump manufacturer Graco Inc. completed two small acquisitions in December that will add to its groundwater and landfill fluid-management capabilities, company officials said Thursday.

In purchasing QED Environmental Systems, Minneapolis-based Graco gains a Michigan-based pumpmaker that specializes in removing groundwater, managing landfill liquids and gases, and removing chemicals from ground or drinking water. That company has about 80 workers split between Dexter, Mich. and San Leandro, Calif.

Graco also purchased EcoQuip, a 20-person firm in Norfolk, Va. that makes abrasive blasting systems. The machinery is used to remove paint and other coatings from ships, oil rigs, storage tanks and automobiles. The technology is considered to be an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional sand blasting because it uses less abrasive products to strip and prepare surfaces for new paint, said Graco spokesman Bryce Hallowell.

Terms of the transactions were not disclosed.

Combined sales for QED and EcoQuip were about $30 million last year. That’s small for Graco, which generated $1.09 billion in 2012 revenue.

Regardless, company officials are excited by the product offerings the purchases bring.

“Both companies operate in attractive niche markets where Graco currently has little or no exposure,” said Graco CEO Patrick McHale. “We expect that the specialized fluid management of QED and EcoQuip will benefit from Graco’s commitment to innovative new product development, an exposure to a global distribution channel, and [Graco’s] expertise in manufacturing efficiencies.”

The acquisitions follow Graco’s April 2012 purchase of Illinois Tool’s Gema Powder Finishing business. The unit gave Graco an estimated $123 million in additional sales per year.

Graco is growing, and investors have rewarded the company. The stock shot from $52 a share a year ago to around $76 a share Thursday. Fourth-quarter results will be released later this month.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725