Northwest Aluminum Specialties sold Monday, Sept. 21, to Sapa Extrusions, a company headquartered in Norway that will add 15 new jobs, beginning at the start of 2016, with more to come.
“This is a very wonderful feeling,” said William “Bill” Reid, president and chief executive officer of Northwest Aluminum Specialties. Reid said holding the line for 59 jobs at the casting plant has been difficult since the economic downturn began in 2007.
“There were times that I thought we were going to have to close completely,” he said.
“We were going month-to-month and working with the bank to survive. They chose to let this (sale) process move forward and this is very positive for the employees who rely on this business for their livelihood.”
Sapa bills itself as the “world leader in aluminum solutions.”
Wade Ellertson, the new plant manager in The Dalles, gave a couple of examples of Sapa’s work.
“The Dallas Cowboy Stadium is made out of Sapa aluminum and Tesla (manufacturer of electric cars) uses a lot of our products,” he said.
Reid said there was a great sense of relief after the sale was finalized about 2:20 p.m. Monday.
He has stalled retirement after almost 30 years on the job to secure a buyer and negotiate a good deal.
He said the sale was made complex by the need to separate out easement and utility rights for the 28-acre property on West Second Street from nearby parcels that also belong to parent company Northwest Aluminum.
Ellertson has been at the site for the past several months and said numerous employees have approached him to express thanks for Sapa saving their jobs.
“Some people came here to work when they were 19 and didn’t know what they were going to do,” he said.
Specialties, the recycling arm of Northwest Aluminum, has operated continuously since 1990. It takes industrial scrap metal and turns it into round aluminum logs that are cut into billets and used by companies for
production of items like oil filters, scuba tanks and fire extinguishers.
For the past 22 years, Ellertson has been with Sapa, which has 110 plants around the globe, and he has lived in a variety of places, including Toronto, Canada.
“When people say you can’t start at the bottom and work your way to the top — you can if you want to,” he said of his career.
He arrives from Phoenix, Ariz., and looks forward to getting involved in local activities, as does his company.
“We want to be engaged in the community,” he said.
Ellertson’s family includes wife, Autumn, a grown daughter and two teenage boys.
He said Sapa will have a larger budget to purchase scrap from Portland and Vancouver and bring it back to The Dalles.
After the plant, which operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week, has been upgraded to accommodate increased production, Ellerton said Sapa will be ready to bring new workers onboard.
“We’ll be adding more employees over the next year,” he said.
Despite its financial problems, Northwest Aluminum Specialties, which was owned by employees, earned the United Technologies’ Supplier Gold designation in 2012 for exceptional performance.
Some of the requirements to meet the gold standard included a record with zero defects, excuses or escapes in all areas of business, including paperwork, shipping, product, labeling and more.
Reid said finances got so bad that the company could only work with customers willing to buy their own materials. He said it is nice to turn the reins over to Ellertson and let Sapa lead the business into the future.
“There were a lot of challenges, a lot of hurdles to get everyone comfortable with this deal,” said Reid. “They will be able to operate things at a more efficient level.
He has planned a social event to introduce Ellertson to community leaders later this week.