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From Employee to Owner - Linda Parks is Manufacturing a Stronger America

Lixit Corporation, as its name implies, is the largest small animal watering device manufacturer in the world.  The company also produces feeding devices, animal care accessories, pet houses, pet exercise equipment and has a number of new product innovations in various development stages. Lixit acquired and relocated Equitex, a company originally based in Petaluma, combining a number of textile products for horses shows into the firm’s total product mix.

Linda Parks started as a buyer for Lixit Corporation over 40 years ago. She has held numerous positions throughout the years. Through a qualified employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), Linda purchased the company and became President and CEO in 1994. Guided by Linda’s passion and big picture thinking, Lixit has been awarded SBA Business of the Year for Northern California, Napa Chamber Business of the Year, Family Friendly Business of the Year and Top Manufacturers Award for the North Bay. Some 30 to 40 percent of the firm’s 100 productive and dedicated employees are adults with developmental disabilities.

Lixit received three 504 loans to purchase and expand commercial real estate in Napa needed for their company’s sustained growth.  Linda learned about the 504 program from her banker, who introduced her to Bob Thompson from Bay Area Development Company, a local Certified Development Company.  The 504 program can be used by small businesses to get access to long-term, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion and modernization. Linda is planning to expand and build a 12,000 square foot building to keep up with the expected growth, for which she might apply for a fourth 504 loan.

Linda’s biggest challenge has been to grow the company and manage the infrastructure required to support it. Many companies Lixit’s size merge, sell or take on partners, but Linda likes the level of independence she has and so do the employee-owners. She doesn’t want to be a middle man, she wants to stay a manufacturer.

The firm’s market is overwhelmingly U.S.-based, and despite many offers, Linda has consistently resisted manufacturing and assembling its products offshore.  Although some of her largest customers have sought cheaper products made in China, Linda has seen many of these same customers return months or years later because they did not receive the same quality or customer service with overseas manufacturers. Linda has started to see the tariffs on goods imported from China also change the decisions of some large buyers, which she hopes will bring them back to goods made in America.

This year Linda transformed Lixit from a C corporation to an S corporation.  This change will allow the company to take advantage of recent changes in tax policy introduced by the Trump administration.

Linda and Lixit are deeply rooted in the Napa Valley and strongly believe in keeping, jobs, and manufacturing in the US.  Lixit supports numerous local Animal Rescues, 4-H-ers and Future Farmers of America, and Special Olympics. 

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Napa, California