by Ed Arnold (earnold@bizjournals.com)

The third time was the charm for Centro Inc. at Memphis Business Journal’s 32nd Small Business Awards program held May 24.

Centro president Michael Gallagher accepted the award for the 21-75 employee category. Centro had been nominated in two previous Small Business Awards competitions in different categories.

“No matter how much you think you’re prepared to have your name come out of the hat,” says Gallagher, “you’re not ever entirely prepared for it. It’s a very exciting thing.”

Centro is a sales representative and distributor for valves, pumps, mixers and other products for the flow control industry.

Gallagher worked for large corporations before purchasing Centro in 2001 from its original founders, risking the majority of his net worth in the process.

Gallagher has found that life as a small business owner has been a much more rewarding experience for him.

“We believe that if we put our customers first and our employees second, good things will always happen,” he says.

The connection to his employees is a deep and emotional one for Gallagher. For a time, he lived in Rochester, N.Y., the home of Eastman Kodak.

The collapse of that once-mighty company had a profound impact on his feelings of responsibility to his employees and community.

“We owe it to the people who work for us and the people we serve to not only be good at what we do, but to be committed to it,” Gallagher says. “Part of what we’re committed to is making Centro a good place to work, not just a good supplier, but a good employer.”

Centro has grown steadily throughout Gallagher’s tenure as president. In May, Gallagher and the company closed on the acquisition of Meredith Air Controls in Nashville, a deal three years in the making. By adding the Meredith business to the operation Centro already has in Nashville, he expects the full year volume in Nashville to improve from $3 million to $6 million.

The purchase of Meredith was the sixth acquisition by Centro since 2003.

Other companies that have been acquired by Centro include Trigon Engineering of Memphis, Green Controls of Jacksonville, AR., Clements and Associates of Memphis, BAT Pump & Supply of El Dorado, AR and Pelican Industrial Equipment of Shreveport, LA.

The acquisitions are part of Centro’s overall growth strategy. Centro wants to foster organic growth in concert with the acquisitions with a goal of 10 percent revenue growth per year on average.

Gallagher feels that the acquisitions are not just about buying profitable businesses, but also about finding talented employees, accumulating technical product lines that are a fit with Centro’s current business and creating opportunities to sell Centro’s products to new customers in new places.

Looking down the road, Gallagher has high ambitions for Centro.

“The next step for us is to make it to (MBJ’s) Top (100) privately held businesses list,” says Gallagher. “We’re going to continue to grow and we’re going to continue to be part of this community. We’re going to create jobs, create opportunity and continue to earn our customers’ business. If we do those things, no matter what happens in the economy, we’re going to succeed.”

Original article appeared in the Memphis Business Journal.
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