There’s no place like home

Blackburn’s sees steady growth in accessibility
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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

TARENTUM, Pa. – The home accessibility division of Blackburn’s Medical recently received the “Heavy Hitter Award” from Harmar, another sign that business has been good for the company.

In fact, sales for the division have grown 15% to 20% per year since its launch about 10 years ago, according to company officials.

“Blackburn’s is so diverse and we’re a small part of the company, but we’ve grown steadily and we hope to continue to grow and be a viable part of the company,” said Joe Novostat, who handles sales and marketing for the division.

Since one of Blackburn’s main businesses is complex rehab, accessibility was a natural extension for the company, officials say. The division focuses on lifts—everything from stair lifts to vertical platform lifts to patient overhead lifts—and ramps.

Blackburn’s has used a number of strategies for setting up the division for success, including leveraging waiver and trust fund programs to pay for lifts and ramps for their customers.

“When we originally got involved in accessibility, we looked at it as a retail type of business and it still is,” said Nick Rossey, Blackburn’s certified environmental access consultant. “But we’ve seen extraordinary growth over the years gaining those funds through waivers or trust funds. The truth is, accessibility can get to be very costly.”

The division now counts on waiver and trust fund programs for about 75% of its business, according to officials.

Another strategy has been for Blackburn’s to do its own work. When a larger project requires, say, knocking down walls to install a lift, the company will subcontract that, but otherwise, it has invested in the manufacturer training, certification and even the tools to get the job done itself.

“It took a couple of years to get to that point, but we have found it gives us better control of the end product and a more satisfied customer base,” said Randy Prunty, the business development manager at Blackburn’s.

There’s also this: Blackburn’s has an Accessibility Center, a showroom in a shopping mall that features lifts, ramps and more.

Blackburn’s hasn’t ruled out expanding the division to include home modifications like bathroom remodels and door widenings—it’s already registered as a Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor.

“Getting into that would probably grow the division astronomically,” Rossey said. “But that’s a whole different ballgame and would require bringing on people who do that kind of work.”