That one time it all worked out for LI, thanks to IPS

Forward progress: With a new Minneapolis acquisition and a corporate-HQ relocation to Hauppauge (home of subsidiary Intelligent Product Solutions), Forward Industries is going all-in on product design.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A masterstroke of Long Island socioeconomics – how it should work, or at least how regional rainmakers wish it would – has come full circle.

Forward Industries, the formerly Florida-based manufacturer that acquired Long Island product developer Intelligent Product Solutions in 2018, has moved its corporate headquarters to Hauppauge – bringing the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak, in a rare case of a corporate parent relocating to its subsidiary’s home base.

But that’s what made the most sense, from a corporate standpoint – “growing our design division whilst improving efficiency from consolidating resources,” Forward Industries CEO Terry Wise said in a statement – and from more practical perspectives.

“By simple order of magnitude, IPS has more people than Forward,” noted Intelligent Product Solutions President and CEO Mitch Maiman. “When you come down to it, the headquarters was on paper there, but it was really a staff of less than half-a-dozen people.”

Compare that to IPS’s roughly 100 employees, including 65 full-timers and dozens of local contract workers, and the parent moving in with the subsidiary became a no-brainer – especially considering Forward’s “continued focus on growing our design division,” according to Wise.

“Intelligent Product Solutions continues to play a pivotal strategic role in the group’s future growth and success,” the CEO added.

The relocation has been a “slow transition” that started over the summer, according to Maiman, when newly hired Forward Industries Chief Financial Officer Anthony Camarda reported for duty – in Hauppauge.

Mitch Maiman: Formal introduction.

While Forward is maintaining a small corporate presence in the Palm Beach area, the rest of its operations team has joined (or will soon join) the CFO on Long Island.

“It’s a formal process, as you can imagine,” Maiman said. “It takes time to update all the corporate documents and get all the services to recognize the new address.

“Over the next few weeks, that should all get reconciled,” he added Thursday. “As of now, it’s Hauppauge.”

The months-long relocation coincides with another Forward Industries acquisition, this one expanding the corporate parent’s product-design chops while giving it a foothold in innovation-friendly Minneapolis.

In August, Forward acquired the assets of Kablooē Design, a Minnesota-based product innovator known particularly for its medical devices (and for its med-tech industry connections, no small thing in the Twin Cities).

With a client list that includes Boston Scientific, Irish multinational Medtronic and a host of other world-class technology companies, Kablooē was an ideal get for growth-minded Forward Industries, according to Maiman, who’d dealt with Kablooē before – IPS briefly operated a Minneapolis office – and strongly recommended the company to the new corporate owners.

Kablooē is “very small” and “doesn’t really provide the engineering services that go along with product development,” Maiman noted, but does boast an “extensive prototyping capability.”

And it’s a “well-established, profitable brand in the Minneapolis market,” according to the IPS president, who remembered Kablooē CEO Tom Kramer fondly and saw “great leverage” in a potential merger.

“From the get-go, [IPS Chief Operating Officer Paul Severino] and I recommended this,” Maiman told Innovate LI. “We liked having a physical presence in Minneapolis (with IPS) and we really got to know Kablooē and Tom Kramer.”

The acquisition will keep Kramer and Co. in Minneapolis, while adding what Maiman termed “real scalability” to Kablooē’s designs – and to IPS’s renowned focus on wearable-technology and Internet of Things solutions.

“We have our own designers at IPS, but Kablooē’s designers have a lot of competency in medical technologies – and they have a lot of relationships with med-tech companies in the Midwest,” Maiman noted. “We think we can scale both Kablooē and IPS through that network.”

And all of that action will now be funneled through Hauppauge, because – for once – the out-of-state corporate parent that snapped up the unique Long Island talent flipped the script, and decided to migrate here.

“There are real operational efficiencies to being in New York,” Maiman noted. “And of course, there are operational efficiencies in having our CFO, our corporate functions and our design operation all functioning together.

“I also believe it helps Forward and IPS, as a combined business, to be a company based in New York, as far as our relationship with the state,” the longtime entrepreneur added. “We see real opportunities here.”