When parent company, Pentair, merged Delta Machinery and Porter-Cable Corporation in 1999, it offered longtime Delta employees Mark Strahler and Nanette Rizzo positions in the new organization. Mark was asked to relocate to Delta’s new headquarters in Jackson, Tennessee, and as national account manager, Nanette could stay in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her hometown.
As wonderful as the new opportunities would have been, Nanette and Mark had another type of “new” opportunity in mind. Joining forces with other former Delta employees and Taiwan and China-based manufacturing contacts, they created Orion International.
“We looked at some of the niche opportunities Delta was never able to address,” Nanette recalled. “And we saw an opportunity to put together a small team who could customize and market private label woodworking machinery products. Through our Delta experience, we already had successful relationships with proven factories in Taiwan and China. So we decided to go after retailers like Sears, Home Depot, Lowe’s, or whoever might have a house brand they’d like to pursue.”
Orion International opened its doors in January 2000. The concept of pursuing business led to selecting the constellation Orion — also appropriately known as the Hunter — as the company’s namesake.
Their first target customer was Sears.
While employed by Delta, Nanette and Mark successfully represented the Delta brand of woodworking tools to Sears, so they had already formed strong relationships with several Sears buying teams. With a little luck and good timing, coupled with over 120 years of combined marketing, sales, and manufacturing experience, Orion was able to successfully compete and win a slice of the Sears’ Craftsman business.
“We now manufacture a line of bench grinders and a stationary jointer for Sears’ Craftsman brand,” explained Nanette. “One innovation, a variable speed grinder, is especially unique in the marketplace, since it has variable-speed capability and both wire and grinding wheels & so it will grind, debur and remove rust, debris, and tarnish.”
In addition to grinders and jointers, Orion can supply a wide range of woodworking machinery and accessories for private label sale including miter saws, table saws, planers, sanders, band and scroll saws and drill presses.
While there are many manufacturing companies in Asia attempting to market their products under private labels, few have Orion’s understanding of the U.S. market combined with a close working relationship with Asian manufacturers. The fact that there are practically no DIY markets in Asia means that few Asian manufacturing employees have ever used the equipment in a real life setting. To ensure quality, and along with the factories’ mechanical testing, Orion and Craftsman both maintain stateside structures for quality controls and practical testing.
On top of supplying private label products to various retail customers, Orion offers design and engineering services to various manufacturers, including their former employer, Delta Machinery.
“After Pentair merged Delta and Porter-Cable, we found that an exceptional pool of product design and development talent was available in the area, so we quickly put together a game plan to capture and market their capabilities,” said Nanette.
“Our design engineering staff,” she added, “can handle just about any product development task — from making simple cosmetic modifications to a product to creating detailed drawings and working prototypes of new or radically-redesigned products. We made an important and significant investment in both equipment and staff to enable our operation to meet any customer’s product design or development needs.”
And though that opens up whole new possibilities for marketing to any potential customers, Orion has plenty to do supporting their Craftsman brand initiatives.
“We appreciate the support Sears has given Orion and will continue to make every effort to take care of every Sears customer,” observed Nanette. “Service is of critical importance and we stand behind our products 100%. After all, we want to be around for at least another 50 years, so we can pass this on as a legacy business to the next generation of tool fanatics!”