Norco Inc began in Boise, Idaho in 1948 as the welding supply division of the Nordling Auto Parts Company. In 1968, the division was purchased by Larry Kissler, formerly of Union Carbide’s Linde Division. Kissler, who had served as regional manager of 11 eastern states at Linde’s New England facility in Sudbury, Massachusetts, headed west with his wife, Fran, and their four children to purchase Norco, which at the time had 15 employees, and two locations, in Boise and Twin Falls, Idaho.
Kissler teamed up with Dan Steele, who became Norco’s general manager and eventually company president, and they began acquiring other welding supply distributorships in the Intermountain West region. They expanded the business into Montana in 1974, eastern Oregon in 1981, and central Oregon in 1983. Kissler and Steele put providing excellent customer service at the top of their list and led a highly dedicated team of employees through three decades of growth and profitability. As a symbol of their commitment to service, they placed the customer at the head of the organizational chart. Kissler often told his employees and vendors, “The customer provides our paychecks.”
In 1985 Kissler’s son Jim bought the company. Since that time, Jim has led his management team to expand the business at a remarkable rate of nearly 15 percent annually. In 1987 Norco bought locations in northern Nevada. It acquired locations in eastern Washington in 1988 and again in 1996, while infilling its existing footprint with numerous other business acquisitions. In 1990 it started NorLab as a specialty gas division. NorLab produces calibration mixtures and pure specialty gases. In 2001 Norco acquired locations in Utah, and in 2002 it took a major step in the U.S. gas business by building its own air-separation plant, in Nampa, Idaho.
Today, Norco’s day-to-day management is led by Ned Pontious as president, and Jim Kissler as CEO and chairman of the board. Norco has revenues of over $200 million annually and over 800 employees. The company is headquartered in Boise and operates over 45 branches across Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
In addition to its retail locations, Norco operates two acetylene facilities and has recently completed a new plant near its headquarters. This plant will be located at a new, specially designed fuel gas facility that will also handle the rapidly increasing demand for Norco’s hydrogen filling service and its propylene fuel gas business. The plant will offer the most advanced palletized, automated cylinder-filling equipment, as well as cylinder maintenance and repair.
Norco is focused on quality operations and management and continually seeks new ways of improving. New products and markets are added to the mix, and internal processes are fine tuned to produce optimal results. One Norco innovation for increased efficiency is an ingenious, centrally located hard-goods inventory system that is based on a multi-tiered, automated carousel system used for order fulfillment, which enables increased efficiency and accuracy.
Norco has two primary operations and growth platforms—industrial and medical.
Norco’s two businesses have recognizable differences in marketing, sales, service and certain operations, but whenever possible they share facilities, operations, staff resources and overhead.
Norco’s medical business serves both the hospital and home care segments of this steadily growing market. Several Norco branch locations deal primarily in medical products and virtually all branches focus on this line, which serves significant share of the region’s hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions and a large number of home care patients.
The strategy for Norco’s medical business is three-pronged—respiratory, obstructive sleep apnea, and rehabilitation technologies.
The Norco medical slogan, “Hey…Life Just Got Started!” supports this three-part mission: to provide patients with improved respiratory health, comfort, and mobility with oxygen therapy in institutions and at home; increased healthy, comfortable sleep with a variety of special products; and greater mobility and physical comfort with wheelchairs and scooters.
Today, Jim Kissler, Ned Pontious, and the Norco team continue to fulfill the company’s original motto, “Serving You Better,” by delivering welding, safety, and medical products to thousands of customers each day, in the same way that Larry Kissler and Dan Steele did when the company began, more than 60 years ago