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Published: Saturday, 3/31/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Merger opportunity grows from chance encounter

Toledo PR, marketing firms combine

BY KRIS TURNER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Joe Sharp, left, and Judy McFarland, chief executive officer and president, respectively, of Thread Marketing Group, gather with Mark Luetke, FLS Marketing president, at the merged firm's new offices.
Joe Sharp, left, and Judy McFarland, chief executive officer and president, respectively, of Thread Marketing Group, gather with Mark Luetke, FLS Marketing president, at the merged firm's new offices.
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A chance encounter at a Panera Bread led to the merger of two of the biggest public relations and marketing firms in the Toledo area.

Mark Luetke, president of FLS Marketing, wanted to expand his company's Web presence and social media capabilities. Joe Sharp, chief executive officer of Thread Marketing Group, was looking to add a stronger public relations element to his company.

Bumping into each other solved both men's problems.

"It was a good fit for both companies," Mr. Sharp said as he sat in a conference room at his new office on Alexis Road in northwest Toledo.

The office will house both agencies, which will operate as one company under the Thread label. A division of the company, FLS Group, will provide public affairs, issue management, and political consulting.

The merger will result in about $5 million in business a year, said Judy McFarland, president of Thread. The company is privately held and does not release specific financial data.

Because the two companies served different roles, layoffs will be minimal if they occur, Ms. McFarland said.

"There isn't much overlap," she said.

Negotiations occurred for about six months and were completed Thursday. Ms. McFarland said she hopes the company will be up and running in its new space by Tuesday. Thread moved from Maumee to Toledo because of the merger.

Evidence of the recent move was everywhere Friday -- boxes were stacked against the front desk, and Ms. McFarland said more would be arriving throughout the weekend as FLS relocates from downtown Toledo.

Mr. Luetke has spent most of his working life in downtown Toledo -- he began his career there running errands for his father's public relations firm when he was 14 years old -- so leaving it behind will be bittersweet.

He said he'll maintain a conference center downtown because many of his clients are there.

But he likes the Alexis Road location too.

"The people from our staff feel the energy of moving here," he said. "It will create a synergy."

Contact Kris Turner at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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