Alliance Industrial Group Inc.
In 2001 the husband and wife team of Jim and Lisa Buchan, now president and CEO, respectively, founded Alliance Industrial Group Inc. (AIG), along with a few financial investors who were eventually bought out. For more than a decade, the company has grown, reaching into new markets with a strong set of fabrication and construction capabilities. Together, Jim and Lisa lead a team of approximately 200 employees out of three locations in Vancouver, Wash.
Furthermore, AIG works with two subsidiary companies: Alpha Iron LLC (Alpha) and Vancouver Steel Painters (VSP), which respectively provide fabrication and coating services that tie into the business’ broad range of projects.
One thing that sets AIG apart from other contractors is diversity. The business is vertically integrated, adding efficiency unmatched by other steel erection companies in the region.
“We are constantly getting into new specialties within the steel industry,” Lisa explains. “We do everything from new commercial and industrial buildings to steel column replacement retrofitting. With our own fabrication facility, we can pretty much do everything from raw material to erection of a building or high-rise.”
AIG’s customers come from diverse backgrounds. The team has worked for hospitals, schools, high-tech companies, commercial contractors and even the federal government. As far as steel work goes, the team performs everything in-house. Depending on the scope of contract, AIG works with general contractors and subcontractors. Most of the company’s subcontracted work goes out to steel grating and decking suppliers and installers.
A growing portfolio
One of the company’s more high-profile recent projects has been the Edith Green building in downtown Portland, Ore. The structure houses offices for the Internal Revenue Service and the building is owned by the federal government. “We won quite a few awards for this project,” Lisa notes. “We self-performed everything on this contract, including retrofitting, custom steel fabrication and erection.”
“This was a LEED-certified Platinum project,” Jim adds. “We actually increased the size of the building by 2 feet all the way around for 18 floors. Our scope included adding a PV Canopy to the building and we also added sun shades all the way up the 22 stories of the building. This was a challenging project. As an existing building in downtown Portland, access was a challenge and the design was a challenge. The construction tolerances were extremely tight.”
Another recent project has taken the AIG team into the high-tech industry. “We worked with a major technical company on a huge 10,000 ton facility,” Jim says. “That job was a design-build project with several thousand men on the job under several scopes. Our scope was structural and miscellaneous metals, including a pedestrian bridge. The biggest challenge was that this was a design-build project with a very demanding customer on a very fast schedule. We have done a lot in the tech industry over the last few years.”
AIG is also working with the regional transit authority on an emerging high-speed transit line. The team’s scope involved supplying structural steel, stairs and miscellaneous iron to create a 200-foot shaft for public access to and from the new Sound Transit System.
“This has been a big project for a lot of people in the area,” Jim explains. “This is our first contract for the new transportation system, but it is very large and will last several more years. I’m pretty certain we will do more work on that system as the project progresses.”
Thriving in a changing market
Despite the recent economic downturn, AIG has held steady to growth. “The recession did not hit us too hard,” Lisa notes. “We felt it most in 2010. Our cash flow was a little tight, but we did a lot of reinvesting in that time when there was not as much work available.” Many of the company’s competitors went out of business during the downturn, opening up more opportunities for AIG in the recovery.
The company’s strong relationships helped the team stay ahead of other businesses when the market was down. Whether with strategic partners such as subcontractors and suppliers, or with clients, AIG strives to operate with clear communication and quality work. AIG’s raw materials needs remain consistent. As a commodity, the team’s relationships with steel and iron vendors have been harbored and maintained for several years, offering value that AIG can pass on to clients.
With a less competitive market, AIG has entered new territory with steel fabrication and erection. The team is growing internally and externally. In order to accommodate the changes in the business, Lisa, Jim and the team are moving to a new location with more space.
“We have been running the gambit of miscellaneous work, which means we are doing a lot of metals for smaller jobs,” Lisa notes. “We are moving into new facility in 2014 with four times the space. This will allow us to get more into structural steel fabrication. We usually have to outsource to companies with larger capabilities, but our new facility will give us the opportunity to do some of that in-house.”
The new facility will house operations for AIG and Alpha, with an office and fabrication shop on-site. “VSP, our coatings company that does paint, primer or anything else that needs to go on steel before it gets to the jobsite, is in a facility next to our current fabrication shop,” Lisa clarifies. “When we move, they will most likely stay there, but we are looking at moving them to the new facility, as well.”
Such changes to the operation will allow AIG to continue to diversify. The company’s broad capabilities keep a steady flow of work coming in. “Revenue is important to us, but our greatest indicator of success is that our employees can prosper here,” Lisa explains. “We have a tight knit group of employees here and we want to see them do well.” Lisa notes that the crew is onboard for the upcoming changes and opportunities that follow.
In the next year or so, AIG is pursuing a number of market opportunities. Lisa would like to see the business open a specialty stair division, as well as some other niche market initiatives. Wherever growth takes the business, the team’s core values remain unchanged. Alliance Industrial Group Inc. seeks to provide high-quality, safe steel fabrication and erection services to a broad and growing market.
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