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Cincinnati Business Courier – Apr 06, 2004

Cincinnati Business Courier March 12, 2004 Nisbet Brower ready to stretch its wings in Sharonville home By Dan Monk “Nisbet Brower’s $4 million investment in a new Sharonville headquarters should enable the company to post $50 million in sales in a few years,” owner Mark Rippe said. “This will give us the ability to expand some of the product offerings we have. Our fake Rolex watches, fake Rolex is going to be so much better because we’re operating out of one facility instead of three different locations,” said Rippe, President and CEO of Nisbet Brower, a building products supplier that employs 200 and reached revenues of $34 million in 2003. Completion of the headquarters complex caps four years of dramatic changes for Nisbet Brower. The firm has revamped its manufacturing processes, made several acquisitions and developed several new product lines. All of this happened after the Rippe family sold its interest in the West Shell residential and commercial real estate companies in 1996 and 2000, respectively. The company will consolidate operations from Loveland, Milford and Colerain Township into a 190,000-square-foot warehouse building, formerly occupied by General Motors, at 11575 Reading Road. It’s also planning a 10,000-square-foot showroom on Reading Road in Evendale, along with a similar showroom in Dayton. Sharonville Development Director Ted Mack said the Nisbet Brower investment fills a building that stood vacant for more than 18 months. The company will receive a six-year, 100 percent abatement of property taxes on the value of all improvements to the property. Separately, Hamilton County granted the company a seven-year, 75 percent abatement of personal property taxes on the company’s $850,000 investment in machinery and office furnishings. That tax break is worth an estimated $70,000. Rippe said the consolidation puts Nisbet Brower on a path to become a one-stop shop for its customers, which includes some of Cincinnati’s largest home builders and dozens of custom builders throughout the Tri-State. The company sells cabinets, countertops, windows, doors, lumber, framing products and dozens of other products and is looking to add design services and “wall panelization” to the mix. Panelization involves pre-assembling the walls for new homes inside the factory, then delivering those walls—window and door frames included—to the home site. The goal is to save time for home building crews. Rippe has developed the new product ideas over time, as he bought a series of smaller specialty shops to add to his home-products holdings. Rippe’s first acquisition came in 1976, with the purchase of Nisbet Lumber, 134-year-old lumber and hardware supplier in downtown Loveland. In 1997, he added Clermont Lumber Co., which was known for custom millwork. That purchase was followed by the 2000 acquisition of Brower Products Inc., a Dayton-based manufacturer of custom kitchen and bath cabinetry. In 2001, Rippe purchased Schmitt Marble, which makes marble, granite and other solid countertops. Rippe kept the management teams intact at all of the companies he acquired. But as he was integrating those acquisitions, Rippe worked to improve the company’s manufacturing process. He hired efficiency consultant Ray Attiyah, whose Midwest Manufacturing Solutions helped Nisbet Brower dramatically improve its on-time delivery performance and boost manufacturing productivity by more than 40 percent. “They’re doing a lot better job of controlling their destiny,” said Joe Halpin, purchasing manager for the Drees Co., which has boosted its orders to Nisbet Brower by nearly 80 percent to $3.4 million in 2003. “You can tell they’re preparing for the future instead of just trying to keep up with things,” Halpin said. “That’s part of the reason we’ve been willing to give them more business.” The improvements haven’t been lost on Bill Brower, a former Reds minor leaguer who sold Brower Products to Rippe in 2001. Now 62, Brower views the new Nisbet Brower as having a huge marketing edge over national competitors such as Builders First Source. Nisbet Brower is a local company whose management teams have long-term ties to local home builders. But it offers a broader range of products than smaller regional competitors. “I think he has real vision as to where he wants to take the company,” Brower said.