As president of Kamps Inc., Mitchell Kamps knows pallets: He has repaired them, sold them, managed the manufacturing of them, and in 2021, he spearheaded six acquisitions that established his company as the nation’s largest full-service pallet solutions provider.
“It was really ambitious,” Kamps said. “We had a lot of opportunities, and we actually had a half-dozen other opportunities that we said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to. We picked the very best opportunities and the best operators, the best company culture of the companies we were able to work with and acquire.”
The deals were part of a targeted growth strategy and allowed Kamps to increase its national footprint to Florida, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Kamps now has a presence in 41 states with 400 facilities. Since 2020, the company has been majority owned by Freeman Spogli & Co., a Los Angeles, Calif.-based private equity firm.
President of Kamps Inc.
Annual sales: Declined to disclose
Total Michigan employees: 600
Company description: National pallet supplier based in Walker
Advisers on the deals: Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey PLC (legal)
“Five of the deals were geographic expansions into the markets we wanted to get into, and one of the deals was transformational,” Kamps said. “It was a very large company that allowed us to fill out our presence and capabilities into the Midwest.”
Kamps’ aggressive M&A strategy earned him Executive of the Year in MiBiz’s 2022 Deals and Dealmakers Awards.
While Kamps led the effort and was critical to closing the deals, he emphasized that each transaction was made possible by a dedicated and collaborative team that included Kamps Chief Financial Officer Phil Minster, Chief Corporate Officer Brad Reidema, Vice President of Operations Justin Kamps, and legal advisers at Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey PLC.
“It’s a team approach,” Kamps said. “We each have our own responsibilities in facilitating growth. We handle it as a team, and our team has far exceeded what I thought possible.”
Miller Johnson Member Attorney Anne Marie Carson played a key advisory role in the acquisitions.
“Above all, it is Mitchell’s vision and drive to keep the existing networks in place and focus on relationships through these acquisitions that is impressive,” Carson said.
Mitchell’s father, Bernie Kamps, founded Kamps in 1973 when he recognized an opportunity to reintroduce used pallets into the supply chain, offering customers savings and a recycled alternative to brand new pallets. Today, Kamps operates with 3,000 employees and handles more than 250 million pallets annually.
Kamps started repairing pallets for the business when he was 17. Eventually, he moved to the wood resource division, plant management, regional sales, and executive leadership. Having worked at every level of the business gives Kamps a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to support employees for their overall success.
“I have great empathy for our team,” Kamps said. “I understand what they go through and how to support them because I’ve lived it. I appreciate every position in the company from the lens of having been in their shoes.”
Growth has been a foundation of Kamps from the beginning — the company is regularly investing in its capabilities to drive that growth while creating opportunities for employees to thrive. Significant investment in the company’s integration team, corporate services, transportation and I.T. prepared Kamps to handle the acquisitions.
“There hasn’t been a year, outside of the recession, that we haven’t worked through acquisitions,” Kamps said. “Growth and continuous improvement is just in our DNA and has aided in our success for 40-some years.”
“Growth has always created opportunities for job advancements,” he added. “If teammates have an interest and a passion within our company, we support them.”
While supply chain challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic continue to plague industries, Kamps had an established diversified product offering that allowed it to meet customers’ unique needs through shortages and maintain a 99-percent on-time delivery rate.
Kamps said the uncertainty of the markets presented the company an opportunity for an unusually high amount of acquisitions as many companies looked to sell.
“We have a fantastic reputation in the industry and relationships with a lot of trust,” he said. “That goes a long way, and many of our acquisitions have come out of that. So when a company says, ‘I’m thinking of selling,’ we are right there, having already built that trust and relationship.”
After a high number of acquisitions in 2021, Kamps is focused on continued growth.
“I was hoping for a bit of a breather, but I don’t think that is going to happen,” he laughed. “We are integrating these companies to become one united front ultimately. We will have another strong year of growth again, through organic growth and other acquisitions.”