Vehicle lift biz prepares for lift off

Sunday, July 31, 2005

ROCHESTER, N.H. -- All the talk about the convenience of lightweight scooters that can be broken down and stored in a car trunk in a matter of minutes doesn't jibe with Bernie and Cindy Hamann's real world experience.
"We sell portability and we know damn well that when that thing leaves here they will never take it apart," said Bernie Hamann. "The best option is a lift or hoist to mount in a vehicle."
To accommodate what he calls a booming business niche, the Hamanns, who own Lakeside Mobility here, plan to move their lift-installation business from their garage to a new 6,000-square-foot facility later this summer or fall. The expanded digs will also house the couples' scooter and wheelchair business.
That Lakeside expects its local lift market to lift off, does not surprise Chad Williams, president of lift-manufacturer Harmar Mobility. If someone is able enough to buy a scooter -- most are purchased for cash and not reimbursed -- they are buying it for convenience. Part of that convenience is not taking it apart, Williams said.
Likewise, high profile advertising by Invacare and other industry players has changed how people perceive mobility. It's no longer just getting around in the house. It's also going to the mall or traveling to see the grandkids. To do that, many people who use scooters or wheelchairs also require a vehicle lift, Williams said.
"People want to be mobile beyond the home," Williams said. "To be completely mobile is to be independent."
Indeed, most wheelchair and scooter manufacturers recognize that trend and provide lifts to some extent, said Bob Smith, Freedom Lift's vice president of sales and marketing.
That said, not just any HME can install a lift, said DuWayne Kramer, president of mobility manufacturer Leisure Lift.
"You have to have a qualified person, who can drill a hole in the floor and not hit the gas tank," Kramer said.