By Gregg Hoffmann
LA CROSSE Reservists and National Guard serving in Iraq and elsewhere have felt the impact of Logistics Health Inc. from its headquarters in this Wisconsin river town.
So have health care professionals across the nation. And, vaccines that could combat "bio-terrorism" are protected and monitored 24-7 by Logistics Health, right from one of its facilities in La Crosse.
LHI, founded by Donald Weber as National Health Screening in 1987, has grown into a leader in the health systems field. The company works with government and commercial clients in several areas:
- Managing the health care of Army Reserve and Army National Guard personnel.
- Providing valuable education and training to a vast network of healthcare providers, preparing them for the diverse situations they might encounter because of terrorism and other threats.
- Protecting the lab technicians in all of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labs from anthrax by ensuring they receive vaccinations.
- Providing asset visibility, temperature control and distribution of vaccines for government.
- Coordinating information for clinical studies and focus groups.
With offices in Atlanta, the location of the CDC, and Washington D.C., LHI indeed brings the "logistics" to the massive health care system of the Department of Defense and other government agencies.
"About 95 percent of our work now is for the government," Weber said in a recent interview. "We also have commercial clients, but our government contracts have really grown."
Growth in those contracts has led to growth in LHI. Just a few years ago, the company had 28 employees. As of the day of the interview with Weber, LHI had 230 employees and expected to hire 65 to 70 more by the end of the year. More than 90 percent of those employees work in La Crosse.
Weber, who projects that LHI could grow to 500 employees in the not-too-distant future, said he has liked doing business in his home state. Raised on a farm in Cashton, southeast of La Crosse, Weber started and lost a business in home energy systems earlier in his career.
"I lost everything except my wife and daughter," said Weber, a former Marine. "But, I learned many valuable things from that experience. I didn’t give up. I learned that in the Marines. I sustained myself and then started another business.
"The people of this area played a role in my coming back. Our employees have played a huge role in our success. I expect loyalty, but then also will give it back. I learned to hire people who are smarter than me and have skills in areas I don’t.
"Wisconsin has been losing good young people after they graduate from our universities for years. La Crosse has undergone a big transition in the kind of jobs that are available. We are bringing good, well-paying jobs here through this company. I’m proud of that. I want to give something back.
"I’m also proud of the service we provide to the military and other clients. So are our employees."
Weber said LHI also is bringing back federal tax dollars to Wisconsin, which ranks last or very close to last every year in return of such funds via government contracts.
Medical Readiness Essential
LHI first moved into contracting with the Department of Defense when Weber saw a need and came up with a system to meet it.
Weber said, "After the Gulf War only 34 percent of our people in the Reserves and Guard were found to have been medically ready (vaccines, physicals, etc.). William Cohen, when he was Defense Secretary, wanted to raise that to over 90 percent. We came up with a system of getting the services right to the training camps and other sites."
LHI provided that service so efficiently that it led to other business. Today, LHI has a Homeland Security Division, headed by George Bushek.
"We were doing this work before 9/11, but after 9/11 the whole country realized we needed to ratchet things up," Bushek said. LHI offers numerous incident and response preparation programs.
One program is providing solutions of products and services for hospitals to help them comply with Health Resources Services Administration guidelines for bioterrorism preparedness. This includes dealing with surge capacity a sudden flood of patients for hospitals beds, isolation units, decontamination units and pharmaceutical supplies.
LHI helps manage and monitor inventory levels of pharmaceuticals and vaccines, security for those products and temperature control from a facility in La Crosse.
Risk and response mitigation is another service provided by LHI. The company works with federal, state and local governments in planning exercises and training for possible medical disasters, Bushek said. LHI also works with first responders, firefighters and law enforcement in preparedness training.
LHI maintains a team of medical people for the Department of Defense who are on call to go anywhere in the world in the event of a biological incident.
Recent Contract, Alliance
In the middle of December, LHI was awarded a one-year contract from the Department of Health and Human Services Program Support Center and Federal Occupational Health Services (FOHS) to manage their private provider network known as FOHNET.
FOHS is the largest provider of occupational health services for the federal government, serving more than 360 agencies and departments and reaching more than 1.5 million federal employees.
FOHNET performed more than 5,500 exams and 80,000 additional health services in 2003. Services include medical surveillance exams, pre-placement physicals, immunizations, medical screenings and others.
Also in December, LHI and 3M of St. Paul, Minnesota, formed an alliance to jointly market and sell 3M products and LHI services to homeland security markets for incident readiness, preparedness training, disaster relief and pharmaceutical inventory management.
The LHI/3M alliance already is being used to implement 3M Smart Shelf Technology, which will be used to monitor and maintain inventories of stockpiles of emergency pharmaceuticals throughout the U.S.
Some of what LHI is learning through its work with homeland security and defense can lead to other markets. For example, Bushek said the company now is working with a major trucking firm to make sure drivers get required Department of Transportation physicals.
Weber said LHI also became involved in shifting resources during the influenza vaccine scare last year. "The vaccines have to get to the right places," he said. "Millions of dollars are lost each year through wasted vaccines."
More Expansion Coming
Just a couple months ago, LHI and Riverside Center, LLC, announced plans for the development of an $11.4 million corporate center at the riverfront, located where Jay and Front Streets intersect in La Crosse.
The multi-story structure will include 18,000 square feet of lobby and upscale restaurant space on the first floor. LHI offices will be above that bottom floor.
About 260 parking spaces will be created, with plans to expand that number in the future. A couple existing businesses in the area will be relocated.
The center will be near a riverfront park, a couple major hotels, the La Crosse Center, and downtown restaurants and shops. Several city officials have heralded the center as a potential major improvement along the Mississippi River.
"We are very excited about the building," Weber said. "We think it can be a great asset to this area of the city."
TCI, a local design and construction firm, is working with LHI and Riverside Center on the project. Weber said groundbreaking should happen this spring, with a projected completion date of fall of 2006.
LHI will continue to use part of its facility on Andrew Street in La Crosse. Its corporate offices, now located on Front Street, will move down the street to the new building.
Weber said he sees the new center as another way of giving back to the community: "LHI is committed to providing jobs to the La Crosse community and will continue to do so by entering new markets, deepening services and maintaining outstanding customer relationships."