Phoenix rises from Fuller's ashes

Friday, June 22, 2012

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – When Fuller Rehab went bankrupt in 2011, James Rogers felt the company left its employees, patients and vendors in the lurch.

That didn't sit right with Rogers, owner of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based PPS Orthotic and Prosthetic. He felt a connection with the employees and patients in Ringgold, Ga., a city his family helped found and where Fuller Rehab was based.

"I wanted to be a white knight and save those jobs and save those patients," said Rogers.

So Rogers bought Fuller Rehab's key assets and hired 30 of its employees to create Phoenix Rehab and Mobility.

"I started off with zero and only added what I had to add," he said. "The only way to survive is to have a very low-cost structure."

To that end, Rogers set about creating a streamlined company. Gone are Fuller's "gigantic" corporate headquarters and multiple satellite locations; Phoenix operates out of the basement of PPS's offices. He says many employees now use smart phones and work from home, further cutting down on overhead.

The biggest remaining challenge, Rogers says: repairing relationships with vendors. Fuller Rehab owed vendors millions of dollars when it went bankrupt, including $7 million to Pride Mobility alone, according to local news reports at the time.

"I met with them face to face," said Rogers. "I let them know, 'This isn't the company that left you high and dry; this is a new company trying to pick up the pieces here.'"

Although PPS Orthotic and Prosthetic and Phoenix Rehab are two separate companies, Rogers wants to create a "one-stop shop for mobility," expanding the prosthetics and complex rehab divisions into an integrated model.

"I'm really excited about the future," he said. "If it involves getting folks moving, we're going to do it."