Columbia Industries buys Idaho delivery business

Brian McDermott

Columbia Industries has added another business to its portfolio of profit-making enterprises to support its mission to serve hundreds of Tri-Citians with disabilities. 

The Kennewick nonprofit announced it purchased Harmon Express, a Lewiston, Idaho-based FedEx Ground independent provider. The deal closed on Nov. 10. Terms were not disclosed. 

Harmon Express is now rebranded as CI Express Inc. and services delivery routes in Pullman, Moscow, Idaho, as well as rural communities in Washington and Oregon. 

The delivery deal is the latest in a series of purchases that brought businesses ventures into the Columbia Industries family. Collectively, they generate revenue to support its day center, training programs, job placement and other services.  

The all-cash deals were funded with proceeds from an insurance settlement, as well as the sale of real estate, said Brian McDermott, president and chief executive officer. There is no debt. 

The settlement stems from a refrigeration system failure at a Columbia Industries packing site nearly a decade ago. The failure forced the agency to shut down the operation. McDermott said the board set the money aside while it developed a strategic plan to boost Columbia Industries’ cash flow to support operations.  

Columbia Industries previously acquired four Round Table Pizza restaurants and Paradise Bottled Water using a mix of settlement funds and real estate proceeds. 

Columbia Industries operates the businesses as for-tax enterprises, using after-tax profits to support programs that help people with disabilities and barriers to employment live fuller lives. 

“CI Express is expected to provide important cash flow support to the very substantial expansion of our mission programs,” McDermott said in a press release. 

Columbia Industries has expanded its offerings in the past year to include Opportunity Kitchen, a 12-week program that equips clients to work in the hospitality and restaurant industries, and Empowerment Place, a drop-in center that links individuals with housing, employment, food benefits, transportation and other necessities of life. It is housed at the Columbia Industries complex at 900 S. Dayton St., near Kennewick High School. 

The restaurants and bottled water and delivery services join an existing lineup of for-profit businesses that support its primary mission.  

Columbia Industries reported expenditures of nearly $2 million in 2017, according to its most recent financial report to the IRS. 

Formed in 1963 as the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Benton and Franklin Counties, the organization adopted its present name in 1981 to reflect its expanded mission to provide jobs and services to those with disabilities.  

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