WINSLOW — Changes are afoot at the old Sukee ice arena.

By the end of the month, the former ice rink — which has sat vacant for over two years — will become the welding shop for the nation’s largest aluminum trailer manufacturer.

ALCOM LLC purchased the 30,000-square-foot building off Verti Drive, formerly known as the Sukee Arena and Events Center, for just under $1 million at the end of 2018, according to owner and CEO Trapper Clark.

“The trailers will be welded up in this building, and then the frame will be brought over there to be finished,” said Clark, gesturing to a blue and gray warehouse roughly 1,500 feet away from the Verti Drive property. 

ALCOM’s main facility, over twice the size of the former Sukee arena at 70,000 square feet, is located “just through the woods” in the Millennium Drive business park. A newly formed road connects the two sites.

The company churned out 18,000 trailers last year, ranging from $500 open utility trailers for homeowners to carry items such as lawnmowers to $50,000 enclosed commercial trailers for hauling cars and other large cargo. Its products are sold throughout the United States and internationally, including in Canada, China, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand and South America.

Its recent acquisition and expansion is expected to bring 150 new jobs to the Winslow area over the next three years, with about 50 of them coming in 2019, Clark said. The company currently employs just over 500 individuals in three locations: 265 in Winslow; 195 in Missoula, Montana; and 80 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Human Resources Director Don Embrey said ALCOM will be hiring “primarily a manufacturing-trained base of employees that includes warehousing people, welding and fabricators and an array of finish carpentry trades and assemblers.”

Embrey said he does not anticipate any difficulties in finding a sufficient workforce in greater Winslow.

“The area is generally good for us. We seem to be able to find appropriate local talent to be able to expand our operation,” he said.

Earlier this week, forklifts maneuvered around the construction site as workers prepared the building for a late-March move-in. Clark said the company invested $500,000 to $600,000 to get the facility operational.

“It was basically just a metal shell (when we bought it),” Clark said. “It had lights, but we had to put heat in and all the electrical we need, all the racking, all these drops, any of the fencing that’s around here and the propane tanks — all that kind of stuff we did.”

Workers remove steel girders that will be used in the renovation of the former Sukee Ice Arena in Winslow. ALCOM LLC, which builds utility trailers, bought the space to accommodate an expansion of its manufacturing space. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

A powder coating system for high-end trailers will be installed before the summer, Clark said.

“It’s a way of painting metal. You electrically charge your metal, spray it with some powder and then you cook it, for lack of a better way to describe it,” Clark said. “It goes in one big oven and you just heat it up, and then it cooks down and it’s nice.”

Most of ALCOM’s products, Clark said, are unpainted, mill-finished aluminum.

Clark originally opened the business in Waterville in 2005 but moved to Winslow three years later after “putting a deal together” with the town. Over the years, ALCOM purchased another Winslow-based trailer company, SnoPro, and now manufactures its models alongside brands that include Polaris, High Country, Mission and E-Z Hauler.

Clark said Winslow has welcomed ALCOM from the start.

“There’s a lot of great workers in this area,” he said. “So we’ve been able to recruit and get great workers, and the town itself has been excellent to ALCOM over the years. They worked with us to get us here from Waterville in the first place, and (we’ve) just been well received by them. And with this project, Mr. Bradstreet, the code enforcement guy, has been great.”

Kim Lindlof, executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council and president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, said ALCOM’s expansion is a good sign for the local economy.

“Who says manufacturing is dead in the U.S. with businesses like ALCOM, F3 (MFG Inc.) and Sappi innovating and growing?” she said. “Our area is bucking the trend. Winslow is a wonderful community to work with, and ALCOM is lucky to be located there.”

While a weld shop is certainly a pivot from an ice rink, Clark said he thinks Doug Sukeforth, who owned the arena, would be pleased to see the space being used to support the local economy.

“I think Doug’s real motivation was to be able to sell it to someone who was going to create more jobs, so it worked out well for him to work with us.”

Embrey agreed.

“This is a nice reuse of an older building,” he said. “I think that it served a community purpose a while back for recreation … and it’s good to see that the building continues to be used for a good purpose for the local community, and it’s basically (creating) jobs.”

A touch of its history as an ice rink will remain, as Clark said he does not have plans to remove the red and blue lines from the floor — or the maroon mural of a figure skater and hockey player near the entrance.

“I just think it’s fun,” he said. “I don’t know. I played hockey here my whole life, so I kind of thought it was fun to leave the lines.”

 

Meg Robbins — 861-9239
[email protected]
Twitter: @megrobbins

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