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Success flows to South Portland exporter of industrial equipment

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Success flows to South Portland exporter of industrial equipment

SOUTH PORTLAND — How good are things for Allagash International?

On Monday, founder and President Terry Ingram was unavailable to talk about company growth because he was in Alabama and soon headed for Kazakhstan.

Instead, Eugene Wendland, the vice president and chief financial officer, and international sales Director Corey Saenz spoke about the growth of the Madison Street company, which was recently named Small Business Exporter of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Our top line has doubled four years in a row, and it could happen again this year," Wendland said about the industrial valves and controlling machinery called actuators made and distributed by the 11-year-old company.

The valves range in size from 1.5 inches to 6 feet, and are primarily sold for use on petroleum and water pipelines carrying volumes from 150 pounds to 6,000 pounds per square inch. The actuators automate opening, closing and testing valves, and Wendland said a company specialty is linking actuators to valves.

"We understand the automation piece and how to match any automation with any valve," Wendland said.

With 53,000 square feet of office, manufacturing and storage space, the company headquarters at 1 Madison St. provides plenty of room for a workforce of 22, with four more employees in Colombia.

Locally and internationally, the workforce is expected to expand, and Wendland said the company will be looking to tie in with nearby Southern Maine Community College for training programs that could benefit the school and business.

Wendland said there is a dearth of machinists and electricians needed to build the valves and control systems. The company looks for employees with backgrounds in automation or electronics.

"Generally, you get trained on the job,” he said.

That is also the case in management, Saenz said. Ingram seeks executives who can augment his strengths, even if they lack practical experience in the industry. Wendland agreed.

"Until you've done it, you've never done anything like it," he said.

Not surprisingly, both Wendland and Saenz are newcomers to the success. Wendland was hired last October; Saenz joined Allagash in January.

“This is completely new for me," Saenz said. "Before I got hired, I was studying all about valves and actuators.”

Valve manufacturing took on a local feel in 2010 when Allagash International bought Minnesota-based DeZurik and shifted operations to Maine. The materials, from the bolts on up, are domestically produced, something Wendland said makes the company unique.

In South Portland, employees can machine, clean and paint valves before installing actuators and shipping the assemblies.

Allagash has its roots in Ingram's home, where he began distributing valves for use at paper mills in 2002. Now split into Allagash Valve & Controls and Nor'East Controls, the company also has a partnership with Cincinnati-based J-Flow Controls to merge all the elements needed to manage and monitor the flow of oil, drinking water or waste water as demand burgeons throughout the world.

The move from Riverside Street in Portland to the former Portland Valve Co. site in South Portland came after company officials determined the Maine State Pier in Portland would be too expensive to use.

Relocating to South Portland added the bonus of overhead cranes in the new suite, allowing employees to take on heavier, large-scale jobs. Moving those jobs got much easier with the arrival of Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping company operating at the former International Ferry Terminal on Commercial Street in Portland.

The first Eimskip shipment, ultimately bound for Iraq, will fill 30 shipping containers once the actuators arrive and are installed on waiting valves lining the production floor.

Wendland said the logistics, including shipping companies, insurance, and travel routes, of getting products to the Middle East or central Asia are daunting, but worth it. And the company will also target regional work for cities and towns upgrading infrastructure.

"No one knew we were here," he said. "So the move and the award is getting us some recognition."

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.