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Recent acquisitions set foundation for growth at Crown Labs

David Floyd • Jun 1, 2019 at 6:16 PM

Local pharmaceutical company Crown Laboratories has had a busy couple of years.

"We've really been in acquisition mode," said president and CEO Jeff Bedard, who started Crown Labs in San Diego in 1998 and moved the company to Johnson City in November 2000.

Since December 2017, the company, known for making Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, has taken on new investors from Hildred Capital Partners, an investment firm created by father-son team Howard and David Solomon, performed eight acquisitions and is gearing up for a multi-million dollar expansion in Johnson City.

In order to bring some of its new assets to Johnson City, Bedard said the company will need to add about 100,000 square feet to their 200,000 square foot facility.

The company has turned to the city for some assistance.

In early May, Johnson City commissioners approved a letter in support of a $450,000 job retention and growth grant for the company, according to prior Press reporting. After receiving approval from the company’s board of directors, the grant will need to be reviewed again by commissioners and the Industrial Development Board.

Give or take a few million dollars, the company plans to make a $27 million expansion that would result in the creation of 216 new jobs over five years, resulting in a $17 million increase in the company’s annual payroll. As of early May, the company had a total tally of 203 jobs with an annual payroll of about $12 million.

Bedard believes a number of those new jobs, perhaps 80%, could be filled locally, particularly those related to manufacturing and distribution. Certain openings that require more specialized skills, like marketing or pharma techniques, will require the business to recruit from outside the community, Bedard said.

Bedard said the low unemployment rate means companies are typically stealing employees from each other, rather than hiring from the shallow pool of people looking for work.

"There's not a lot of highly talented people that are out of work right now just waiting for a company like Crown to offer a job," Bedard said. "We've got to create a reason for people, talented people, to move into this area. Otherwise we're just going to continue to steal from each other."

As a result of its recent growth spurt, Crown Labs has expanded its product line to include a more skin care options. On its website, which was recently updated as part of a recent rebranding, the company divides them into four categories: aesthetic, beauty, therapeutic and prescription.

"We're really a company that can take a consumer or patient through their skin-care journey," Bedard said. "From basically cradle to coffin, so to speak."

In September 2018, according to a press release, the company announced the acquisition of Bellus Medical, a company in Dallas, Texas specializing in aesthetic treatments, including a device called the SkinPen that improves the appearance of facial acne scars.

Crown Labs has also picked up Xycrobe, a research company in San Diego that they're planning on moving to Johnson City, and has gained six new consumer brands through two acquisitions from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

Bedard said the company hopes to bring the manufacturing and distribution of GSK products, which are now made in Florida, Canada and Missouri and distributed out of Indianapolis, to Johnson City.

Beyond the growth in its product line, the company is also participating in a four-year sponsorship deal with the Boston Red Sox and a licensing deal and education partnership with "Sesame Street."

The company will sponsor a series of three educational videos, which started on May 20, about sun safety on the program's "Happy, Healthy Monsters" YouTube series, according to a press release, and will participate in a 20-city tour of the country to talk about sun safety.

The company has also reached a licensing deal with the program to put characters Elmo and Cookie Monster on their baby and kids’ formulas of Blue Lizard sunscreen.

Bedard said that at the Red Sox's spring training facility in Fort Meyers, the company has installed free sunscreen dispensers for fans, workers and players. The company will also hold a day dedicated to sun safety at Fenway Park once a year.

Beyond its marketing initiatives, Bedard said the company has high hopes for the new assets its acquired over the past year and a half.

Bedard hopes to take the company, which started out with four employees, to one that employs more than a thousand people and earns a billion dollars plus in annual revenue.

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