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Kevin Coplan

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Safety equipment firm plans Twin Cities headquarters

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
  • Star Tribune
  • March 13, 2012 - 9:14 PM

The Twin Cities will soon be headquarters for a growing, global manufacturer of safety equipment with roots in Red Wing, Minn.

London-based Capital Safety, which has its largest manufacturing plant in Red Wing, will announce Wednesday that its owners have hired a new CEO from Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp.

Stephen Oswald, 48, will take over as CEO on March 26 and establish a new global headquarters somewhere in the Twin Cities this spring.

Late last year, New York buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts paid $1.12 billion to acquire Capital Safety, a maker of safety and fall-protection equipment for the construction, energy and other industries. It was acquired from London-based Arle Capital Partners, which had owned Capital Safety since 2007.

"Capital Safety is a growing company with a strong team making a difference in the area of workplace safety worldwide, and I see unlimited potential in the future," Oswald said in an interview with the Star Tribune this week. "Kohlberg Kravis believes safety and compliance are only going to get bigger and better."

Since 1997, Oswald has held executive roles at United Technologies, most recently serving as the integration leader for its acquisition of GE Security. Prior to that, he served as president of the Hamilton Sundstrand Industrial Division, United Tech's $1.4 billion-revenue pump-and-compressor business.

Capital Safety President Kevin Coplan, a 26-year sales-and-marketing executive, said Tuesday that about 450 of Capital Safety's 1,200 employees are based in Red Wing, the company's largest installation among about 20 facilities around the world.

Coplan, 45, said the plan is for Red Wing to be the global center for an expanding company.

"Red Wing already is the headquarters of most of the global functions of the business," Coplan said, including engineering, IT and marketing. "This is the flagship operation where we will showcase the mass behind Capital Safety to our global customers."

Private partners started Red Wing-based DB Industries in 1974, which was sold about a decade later to a European consortium that has grown into far-flung Capital Safety.

Coplan said the company has revenue of about $350 million, a growing order book, and about 25 job openings in Red Wing.

Pat Velasco, chairman of the board of Capital Safety, said the company has had "two excellent years of growth" and that the hiring of Oswald, who ran larger organizations for the last decade, indicates Capital Safety is focused on future growth and profitability.

"Stephen has a successful and repeated track record of growing top and bottom lines in industrial markets," Velasco said in a prepared statement.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

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