While Red Ball Oxygen technically incorporated in 1930, it didn’t begin to resemble the modern company until 1969, when Craig and Lorena Kennedy purchased the company. At the time, Red Ball Battery and Oxygen was a National Cylinder Gas distributor that focused on automotive batteries and tires. The Kennedys set about building an entirely new kind of distributorship with welding and expanded cylinder gas capabilities.
Fifty years later, the second and third generation of the Kennedy family now run the distributorship, which has grown into a regional industrial gas and welding supply powerhouse.
“I’m standing on the shoulders of what my grandfather and my father and uncle did,” says Alex Kennedy, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Red Ball Oxygen. “We try to be a very innovative company that is on the forefront of technology. We try to push ourselves to not be a traditional mom and pop and be a company that has the same capabilities as the world class companies we compete against. We want to fight for the value that the distributor has in the market and add value to our customers.”
When the Kennedys bought the business, Red Ball had just four employees and one location. Today, Red Ball has 235 employees, three fill plants in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Houston and Dallas, Texas, two specialty gas plants (Shreveport and Houston) and 23 retail locations.
The company’s executive team comprises Alex Kennedy, Larry Kennedy, chairman of the board, Bob Ewing, president, Michelle Digilormo, CFO, and Craig Harris, vice president of operations.
“Every decision we make is with the customer at the center of that decision,” says Ewing. “We’ve done a very good job of taking care of the employees that take care of our customers and reinvesting in the business. Focusing on our customers, our employees, and reinvesting in the business is how we’ve grown to where we are today and if we keep our focus on those things we’ll continue to keep growing.”
Says Kennedy, “Our commitment to the customer is simple: we will make ourselves available 24 hours every day, 365 days every year and will respond to their problems and opportunities with urgency. We will be a problem-solving vendor they can rely on.”