Airway takes on Lincare, grows

Monday, December 31, 2001

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Airway Oxygen is big and getting bigger, despite a major entry into this market by Lincare last spring.

Three years after opening a 2,000-square-foot location in St. Joseph's, Airway moved that branch last month to a 10,000-square-foot location three miles down the road in Benton Harbor.

The St. Joseph's location "succeeded beyond our dreams and we quickly outgrew that building," said Airway president Steve Slater. The new location allows Airway to park its trucks inside, offers a bigger showroom, a conference room and a break-room that employees appreciate, he added.

Last spring, Lincare acquired White & White, a $40 million, 17-location HME in western Michigan. The national has since exited a number of the locations, including Airway's new Benton Harbor digs, which Slater now leases.

"I couldn't pass it up," he said. "It's a landmark. People have known it for home medical equipment through three owners."

Since Lincare muscled its way into Airway's back yard, the 10-location independent's business has increased, due in part to residents preference for hometown service, but also because Airway stresses its full-service offering, Slater said.

"I've got to battle Lincare now, and we're trying to remind the community that in order for us to keep doing the services on those less reimbursed item - ostomy, diabetic and urologicals - we need to be included in the referral of oxygen patients," Slater said. HME