Maine manufacturer expands, adds jobs to meet global demand for its products

Terry Ingram (far left), CEO of South Portland-based Allagash International, stands with a group of employees in front of a massive valve. Allagash International in January expanded its business and is hiring more employees to meet the demand for its products.
Photo courtesy of Allagash International | Photo courtesy of Allagash International
Terry Ingram (far left), CEO of South Portland-based Allagash International, stands with a group of employees in front of a massive valve. Allagash International in January expanded its business and is hiring more employees to meet the demand for its products.
Posted Feb. 19, 2013, at 6:05 p.m.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — A local manufacturing company last month moved into a new facility in South Portland, doubling its previous space, and plans to add jobs to accommodate rapid growth in the global demand for its products.

Allagash International, which has largely flown under the radar during its decade-long history, manufactures industrial valves and controls used in the oil and gas, papermaking and wastewater treatment industries, among others.

The company was previously on Riverside Street in Portland, but more than doubled its space in January when it moved into the 55,000-square-foot facility in South Portland that once housed Portland Valve Co., according to Terry Ingram, the company’s CEO.

The move was necessary to accommodate the company’s growth, Ingram said Tuesday.

The company’s average annual sales growth has exceeded 40 percent over the last three years, and it is well situated to have another record-breaking year, Ingram said. During the first six weeks of 2013, the company already has received contracts totaling approximately 50 percent of last year’s total sales, he said.

Ingram didn’t want to reveal total revenue figures, but offered: “If we’re not at $20 million in sales in the next three years, I’ll be very surprised. We’re already well on our way.”

After a career in the U.S. Navy, Ingram moved to Maine 22 years ago to work for a series of valve companies serving Maine’s papermaking industry. In 2002, he founded Allagash International as a distributor before purchasing its first line of valves from Honeywell in 2010.

Ingram attributes the company’s success to its skilled workforce and a go-get-’em attitude. Ingram is on the road more than 200 days a year, bidding and closing deals, he said.

“I’m not sitting behind my desk waiting for my business to grow,” Ingram said.

On Tuesday, Ingram was speaking on his cellphone from Colombia where he was bidding on a contract from the country’s largest petrochemical company. Whereas a few years ago Allagash International would have been on the sidelines trying to get a piece of the action, today “we’re right in the front line with everybody else,” he said. “We’ve earned our stripes and now they’re coming to us.”

Allagash International has set up an assembly facility in Colombia to serve the country’s oil and gas industry, Ingram said. It also has an assembly facility in Kazakhstan to serve that country’s oil and gas industry.

Lisa Martin, executive director of the Manufacturers Association of Maine, said Allagash International is evidence that Maine’s manufacturing industry is alive and well.

“They’re another great example of these companies that are the under the radar with no big fanfare,” she said. “They’re in Maine … they’re moving here, growing here or expanding here, which is a very cool thing. They’re an example of why it’s important to pay attention to this sector.”

Ingram said it’s the quality of workmanship in Maine that has gained people’s attention and which ensures the company’s commitment to the state.

“Set aside all the politics,” Ingram said. “At the end of the day, as a business owner, I think the quality of the workforce in Maine exceeds anywhere else I’ve seen in the country. And this is why we continue to stay in the state of Maine.”

The company has 30 employees in Maine and expects to add at least 10 this year to accommodate its growth, Ingram said. Job openings will run the gamut, from assembly workers to electricians and machinists.

More jobs will be added as the company grows, Ingram said.

“We’re going to need to build a stronger engineering group, a stronger inside technical support group. All aspects of the company will have to grow,” Ingram said.

Besides adding jobs, Allagash International also sources much of its contract work from Maine precision machine shops. Currently, that’s about 80 percent, or between $2.5 million and $3 million, he said.

“It’s not just the jobs at Allagash. It’s what Allagash as a whole has done for other Maine companies,” he said. “If I could buy 100 percent of product from the state of Maine, I’d do it.”

Its recent move to South Portland will allow the business to manufacture larger valves and places it closer to the Portland waterfront, where the company expects to take advantage of the new shipping service Icelandic company Eimskip plans to provide by the end of March.

The valves Allagash is manufacturing are not always easy to transport. While some could have a diameter of 3 inches, others have a 60-inch diameter. Their size makes transporting by truck difficult, so putting them on ships is a much more efficient method to pack them off to Iraq or Kazakhstan or eastern Europe, Ingram said.

While Ingram said he’s very happy with the facility the company now has, he said he would have prefered to stay in Portland, where he is a resident. He had tried to negotiate with the city to sign a long-term lease for the Maine State Pier, “but they felt that we were not a marine-based business, which doesn’t make sense since all ships have valves on them,” he said. “I was quite disappointed I had to pick up my plant and move it out of Portland.”

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