In the years leading up to WWII, Clark Orr, Sr. was a salesmen for Murine Company, a Chicago-based company that manufactured eye drops. He was one of two men selling the eye drops to barber shops east of the Mississippi River. His work took him all over the eastern United States, and in the summer of 1948, after returning from the war, Clark Sr. found himself in a rooming house in North Carolina.
At the end of a long hot day, there was a knock on the door of Clark Sr.’s rented room. On the other side stood a man in a white t-shirt holding a bottle of whisky. Jess was also a traveling salesman, selling asbestos gloves. That night, the weary salesmen bonded over tales of the road, dreams of the future, and love of family.
Jess saw a drive and potential in Clark Sr. that he wanted to foster. He encouraged Clark start his own business. He could sell safety gloves, purchased from Jess, to employees of electric utility companies. As an added incentive, Jess loaned Clark $500 to buy a car.
Clark took that car, a Packard, on the road with samples of safety products, calling on rural electric co-ops in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. He made his first sale in 1948 and ORR Safety was born.
Clark Sr. laid down both family and company roots in Louisville, Ky., and continued to travel the area calling on rural co-ops, manufacturers, oil companies, railroads, rock mines and other industries at high risk for employee injuries. It was often a difficult sell as worker safety was not top of mind in these days before OSHA. But Clark Sr. cared about people and he worked hard to convince business owners that if they took steps to protect their people those employees would ultimately be more productive.
ORR Safety was incorporated in 1950 and soon had its first employee. Clark Sr. continued to build relationships with businesses in need of safety supplies. They would save their orders to give to him when he made his way by. He would come back to Louisville at the end of a long week on the road with a pocket full of hand-written orders to fulfill. He was a personable, trustworthy man who people enjoyed doing business with. ORR Safety was growing and in 1952 the company opened its first branch office in Cincinnati followed by another in Indianapolis in 1956.
Clark Sr.’s son, Bud began in the family business by spending his summers manning the Indianapolis storefront while employees enjoyed their summer vacations. In 1967, after finishing business school and serving in the military, Bud joined ORR Safety full time.
In the late 1960s, Clark Sr. and Bud were approached with an opportunity to enter the fire protection industry. ORR Protection Systems was established in 1971 as one of America’s first fire suppression companies. They were early pioneers in the sale of Halon 1301 as well as Fenwal’s explosion suppression line. It wasn’t long before ORR became Fenwal’s top distributor.
Today ORR Protection is the nation’s leader in custom fire protection for businesses striving to protect their property and mission-critical data
In 1973, just as ORR Protection was making a name for itself, Clark Sr. died unexpectedly. The company was suddenly a ship without a rudder. Bud stepped up to lead both ORR Safety and ORR Protection and guide them into the future. While the foundation of ORR Corporation may have been laid by Clark Sr., the focus and heart of the company was, without a doubt, shaped and nurtured by Bud.
In the early 1990s the fire suppression industry took a hit when Halon’s negative impact on the ozone was discovered. The industry itself contracted while new technologies were developed but ORR Protection remained on the cutting edge by specializing in other systems used to protect mission-critical facilities such as CO2, foam, water mist, and flame detection.
With the amendment of the Clean Air Act in 1990, Bud saw the changing environmental regulations as a growth opportunity rather than a setback. In 1991 ORR expanded its mission to protect the environment with the creation of InspectionLogic. As they had been since the birth of ORR Safety, safety and technology were at the core of this new endeavor. A small team developed software to address the new Clean Air Standards by detecting and identifying emission leaks that could ultimately damage the ozone. Today InspectionLogic is the leader in leak detection and repair (LDAR) software.
Today Mr. Orr’s grandson Clark is at the helm of his family’s company. He began working in the warehouse and with the ORR Safety Technical Services Division (TSD) in high school, anxious to jump in and learn the business. Shortly after finishing college in 1998, Clark joined the company full time. He immersed himself in the culture and learned all aspects of the business by working in nearly every department including sales, information technology and marketing.
While working with key partners in the oil and gas industry, Clark helped identify the need for a different kind of hand protection for workers. Clark worked with a team of oil and gas industry experts to design and launch the KONG Glove which fundamentally changed how the industrial safety markets view impact protection for hands.
In 2016 Clark Orr, Jr. stepped into the role of Chairman of ORR Corporation. Today the passion for people and innovation that made ORR a thriving business in the 1950s continues to propel us into the future. While the business landscape is ever changing, the core values that make ORR unique remain the same as they were when Mr. Orr made his first sale from the trunk of his Packard in 1948.