Fred Jackson makes a living pumping gas

Sunday, October 31, 2010

SALIDA, Colo. - Provider Fred Jackson has been spending more time these days hanging around local bars.

Providing gases to help them power their taps is an effort to increase his industrial gas business and diversify away from Medicare, he said.

"We are just walking in and asking for their business," said Jackson, president of Salida Medical. "We've been selling to a lot of the bars and we plan on expanding to restaurants for their beverage services."

Industrial gases are nothing new for the 30-year-old Salida Medical, which for years has supplied them to a variety of industries, including welding and other manufacturing operations, and, on a more limited basis, to wineries and breweries--although that segment has grown lately, he said.

Jackson said that several local competitors who also provided gases have "fallen by the wayside" because they weren't focusing enough effort on it. Jackson's taking on Wal-Mart next. He plans to convert small, steel D and E cylinders into convenient helium cylinders that customers can use for, say, filling balloons for a child's birthday party.

"This is a smaller cylinder that we will charge a flat fee for," said Jackson. "Then they can return it to us and it gets refilled. The ones from Wal-Mart, you use it and throw it in a landfill."

While Jackson described overall margins on industrial gases as good, he said their biggest benefit is that it's a cash business.

"No matter what Medicare does, you still have a cash-in-hand business model," he said. "Down the road, it will be a quality asset for selling the business."