Douglas Brothers Division
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Douglas Brothers Division
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Robert Mitchell Inc. began in Montreal, Canada, nearly 150 years ago. When the company decided to launch its first U.S. venture in 1966, it established a leased space in Falmouth, Maine. The Pine Tree State was the perfect location, situated right in the center of the booming paper industry. After several years and some rapid expansion from supporting the local pulp and paper mills with stainless steel pipe, fittings and fabrication, Douglas Brothers Division (Douglas Brothers) incorporated in 1972.
“We’re part of a large network of Canadian companies known as the Canerector Group,” shares Art Dubois, president and general manager of Douglas Brothers. “We’ve grown from an 8,000-square-foot leased space to our own 48,000-square-foot facility. We have a long history in several markets after being here in Maine for 47 years.”
In 2000, Douglas Brothers experienced a change of corporate ownership, resulting in a portion of equipment and operations moving back to Canada, but Art says the company maintains a strong East Coast presence. “All of our administration, engineering and sales run out of our Portland, Maine, office, but we also have a 20,000-square-foot facility in Savannah, Ga., to better serve the southern market,” he reveals. “We sell all over the U.S., but primarily east of the Mississippi because freight costs get too expensive to reach the West Coast, but we’ve done work on the West Coast in the past.”
Art admits that most of the company’s competitors aren’t aware of the force that is Douglas Brothers situated in a small city such as Portland. “The mom and pop guys who drive right by my shop don’t even know what we do, but our name is well respected throughout multiple industries,” he explains. “We’re a quiet little company in our own backyard, but our name recognition is huge -and I like it that way.”
Reliable Reputation from Maine to Shanghai
Douglas Brothers employs a team of 25 highly skilled engineers, welders, machine operators and draftsman. The company’s first commitment is to professional service customers can depend on -something that’s helped Douglas Brothers earn a trusted reputation over the years.
“We specialize in stainless steel and high alloy piping mainly for the water, sewage and paper industries and especially for municipalities,” details Art. “We also have an in-house vessel shop involved with metalworking and custom piping for tanks and pressure vessels.”
From coastal York County to what Mainers call “the county” in Madawaska, Douglas Brothers has served numerous towns and small cities across its home state, but also throughout the East Coast. “We’ve worked for every major city on the Eastern Seaboard, from New York City to Atlanta,” adds Art.
“We’ve also performed some international sales and distribution,” reveals Art. “We’ve shipped vessels to Shanghai, Saudi Arabia and South America. We’re currently working on a shipment going to Jordan.”
Large-scale, million-dollar contracts are the norm for Douglas Brothers. “In the 1980s, one of our largest projects was the Boston Harbor Cleanup valued at $12 million,” shares Art. “More recently, we’ve done million dollar piping jobs for national firms like Weyerhaeuser Company.
A Core Team
Despite recent economic struggles, Art has his sights set on more custom projects with original equipment manufacturers. “This is probably our biggest attraction right now with custom piping work,” he says. “Since 2009, growth has been minimal so we just want to make sure we can do the job right and we’ve been more specific about the type of work we take on. We focus on areas where we can get the best margin for what we’re doing because in this economy profit isn’t a dirty word.”
Art adds that Douglas Brothers has enhanced its fabrication capacity with some of the most up-to-date technology and software on the market. “We have the credentials and the expert team,” he says.
As a young man in the pulp and paper industry, Art was initially attracted to the technicalities of piping fabrication. He joined Douglas Brothers at the bottom of the ladder. “I started out in a low level position and I’ve worked my way up to the top,” he notes. “I’m entering the retirement zone and I’m working hard to prepare the company for the next generation. At some point we’ll be trying to attract more people to Douglas Brothers, but we really have very little turnover.”
While some employees have been with the company for 25 years, others are nearing 30 years of service. “Luckily, I have several long-term employees I can trust to leave things to,” continues Art. “Once people are here they stay here because we compensate well and offer good insurance.” Douglas Brothers continues to serve a broad range of clients up-and-down the East Coast from its home base in Portland, delivering expert stainless steel fabrication solutions.
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