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Pritchard company in business over 50 years

Jul. 14, 2013 @ 08:55 AM

PRICHARD -- Anyone who's ever had a surgical procedure has likely noticed the yellow hue on their skin at the place of an incision. That would be povidone iodine, and that would be a product that is manufactured and bottled right in Wayne County and shipped throughout the country and beyond, to Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Aplicare, which is located in Prichard, also makes sterile lubricating jellies used in catheter insertions and small bottles of hand-sanitizer, lotions, mouthwashes and shampoos that are provided for hospital patients throughout the world.

Prichard's 38,000-square-foot facility (along with a leased 30,000 warehouse in Huntington) make up up one of two major locations for Aplicare, the other being in Meriden, Conn., also the site of its sales and marketing business offices.

Aplicare's history in West Virginia goes back to 1956, when Don McDaniel established Redi Products in Huntington. That company was acquired by General Medical Corp. in 1971, and it was the mid-1970s when it started manufacturing povidone iodine. It moved in 1981 to its current facility in what is now the A. Michael Perry Industrial Park in Prichard.

In 1995, it sold to McBar Medical Products and a year later McBar Medical merged with Aplicare and in 1999 Aplicare took control, leaving the company with its current name.

Last year, it was acquired by the Clorox Company, a move that has brought a number of pleasant surprises, said Paul Carico, general manager at Aplicare's Prichard plant.

Clorox does more than just surface cleaning solutions, he pointed out. It also owns Hidden Valley Ranch, Burt's Bees, Glad bags, Kingsford Charcoal and more. It has a wealth of resources that Aplicare can now access in terms of global sourcing and buying power, research and development and more.

"We have a bunch of new resources now to help us move forward," Carico said, adding that since being purchased by Clorox, Aplicare has invested $300,000 in capital improvements.

"I can't say enough about the Clorox Company," Carico said. "It's a big company, and we were expecting big company politics."

But in the maybe 50 visits from management, they've found Clorox officials to be cordial, understanding, willing to listen and easy to work with, Carico said. "It's a people-friendly organization," he said.

It's taken a lot of work to get the systems in place as Clorox prefers to operate, but in the meantime, Aplicare has been educating Clorox, for which this is a first endeavor into health care products.

"We're educating them while they're educating us," Carico said.

"I believe our future is brighter now than it has ever been," Carico said. Clorox already has innovative product ideas in the pipeline, but is in the midst of learning the ropes as it pertains to FDA regulations, he said. Aplicare is helping with that.

Registered with the Food and Drug Administration for manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of drugs and medical devices, Aplicare has much experience in working in compliance with strict health care regulations. In that sense, the company has been able to help Clorox learn some things while it learns a tremendous amount from it about improving systems, Carico said.

Along with changes undergone in the past 18 months, Aplicare has seen increases in volume and is poised for even more growth.

Just this summer, Aplicare was honored with a Governor's Commendation for International Market Entry Award, for increasing its exports to 12 new countries in 2012 -- Afghanistan, Canada, China, India, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Carico credits international sales manager Jim Durkin, based in Connecticut, for the boost.

He's been hard at work pursuing international sales, which is fairly involved as it pertains to making sure the products meet with federal health guidelines in various countries.

But he's succeeding, and "We're seeing improved volumes because of that," Carico said.

Aplicare's Prichard plant has 45 full-time employees working on a three-shift schedule five days a week. Annual sales dollars out of the Prichard facility are somewhere around $18 million, Carico said.

"Our biggest asset is our people, bar none," he said. "We've been in business over 50 years for a reason."

It's their willingness to take personal ownership and responsibility for their work, their attention to detail, and willingness to work together toward a common goal.

Also due much credit for the success of the company is the previous general manager, Rick Hicks, who retired last year, and his leadership that inspired employees to do all those things, Carico said.

Plant engineer Bill Harris, who has customized machinery for Aplicare's specific needs, has been a key player as well, Carico said.

"I'd put his plant engineering capabilities against anyone in the world," Carico said. "He's built our production equipment in-house and tailored it to our needs. Because of that, we're able to be more efficient. It's truly amazing what he's done."

He's been there more than 30 years, and 32 percent of the total employees have been there more than 20 years, Carico said.

Two of them are Veronica Murphy (28 years) and Sandy Hay (27 years). Both said they work there for the people.

"It's like a family -- we have a lot of history together, all of us," said Murphy, a packer in the plant. "In our business, we're all close. We all learned it together."

And they take pride in knowing that the products they make help people every day prevent illness.

"I'm one of them -- I have Graves' disease, an auto-immune disease," she said. "I'm not going to send something out that I wouldn't want used on my own children."

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