Business

Gazette parent, Folience, to buy emergency vehicle manufacturer

Folience will acquire Life Line Emergency Vehicles of Sumner

An ambulance prepared by Life Line Emergency Vehicles for the Johnson County Ambulance Service. (image from lifelineambulance.com)
An ambulance prepared by Life Line Emergency Vehicles for the Johnson County Ambulance Service. (image from lifelineambulance.com)

The parent company of The Gazette will acquire a Northern Iowa-based maker of emergency vehicles by the end of the month.

Folience announced Tuesday that it will buy Life Line Emergency Vehicles of Sumner in a deal that will close July 31. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The company’s purchase is intended to diversify Folience’s holdings to include more than media businesses, Chief Executive Officer Daniel Goldstein said.

“Folience, after 133 years of being what was primarily a family-owned, family-controlled media business, is looking at how does it go forward to the next 130 years. It’s not by being just a media business,” Goldstein said.

“Having diversification of business, you can weather that volatility of economic cycles.”

The deal also will provide Life Line’s current owners a succession plan, he said.

Founded in 1985 by a father and son, Life Line manufactures ambulances and other emergency vehicles primarily for municipalities. Customers have included Johnson County, Marion, Waterloo, West Des Moines, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and others, according to Life Line’s website.

“This was the hardest decision I have ever had to make,” Life Line President and CEO Connie Leicher said in a statement. “This agreement took over a year of dialogue and design to put together to be sure that it is in the best interest of employees from both companies.”

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Life Line’s 180 employees will join Folience’s 380 as part of the deal. Goldstein said no layoffs or other changes are planned for now.

“There is no change that is happening, no layoffs, no thinning, no efficiencies in that sense, at the time of acquisition,” Goldstein said.

An employee-owned company, Folience’s holdings currently include The Gazette, printing company Color Web Printers, marketing business Fusionfarm, market researcher Vernon Research Group and three newspapers in southern Iowa.

Goldstein said acquiring a non-media company does not mean Folience wants to spin off its media business, which has become common in the industry.

“Our media business is profitable so there is absolutely no intention to shed that. It’s additive to have a diversified holding which can just strengthen the base of the company,” he said.

The company had owned KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids, but sold the station to Gray Television in 2015.

Life Line’s employees own 30 percent of the company. After the acquisition, they will be part of Folience’s employee stock ownership plan, which owns 100 percent of the company.

Goldstein said Folience has a pipeline of potential acquisitions, but no other deals are planned at this time.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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