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Light rail forces company's move to Tualatin

Company ready for future in expanded space in Tualatin


by: PHOTO COURTESY: TRIMET - Demolition of Beaver Heat Treating in Milwaukie by Portland-based Westech Construction Inc. has been under way since late April and was finished last Wednesday.Company officials balked when they heard light rail’s path through the North Milwaukie Industrial Area required that Beaver Heat Treating relocate or shut down to make room for the new tracks.

Dozens of 2,000-degree furnaces must constantly run to provide metal equipment for clients such as Ford and the U.S. military. Metal and steel manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest have relied on Beaver Heat Treating services for decades, since its founding in 1955. BHT faced a business environment that would have fined the company thousands of dollars for each minute of delay in delivering products.

“It’s one of those businesses that you don’t ever want to have to move — it’s not just unplugging machinery and plugging it back in,” said Karen Tobin, president of Thermal Modification Technologies, the new name for BHT.

Already cautious about light rail in general, Tobin began meeting with TriMet officials in 2008 to negotiate a plan. During the next several years, they worked together to reach an agreement to help the company move to a new site or fairly compensate it if it could not successfully relocate.

Eventually, company managers and owners were determined to see operations continue under a new name with the same leadership, the same employees and larger facilities. By leasing space and furnaces from a competitor, Clackamas-based Met-Tek, they orchestrated the complicated move.

“The infrastructure for the furnaces was the most difficult part of the situation,” Tobin said. “We were only able to do that because we brought some new equipment ahead of time.”

On April 1, the company became Thermal Modification Technologies at another location next to a TriMet rail line at 19830 S.W. Teton Ave. in Tualatin. With more than 53,000 square feet of space, TMT’s new facility provides room to grow its workforce since the business is expected to expand over the next few years. The new company invested in replacement equipment that is more efficient and environmentally friendly. None of the company’s approximately 40 full-time employees lost their jobs.

The former Milwaukie facility was “really crammed” at approximately 32,000 square feet. BHT closed down its heat-treating business in March. Demolition work in Milwaukie by Portland-based Westech Construction Inc. has been under way since late April and finished May 29.

“While we would have never chosen to move our operations if we didn’t have to, a new company has emerged with expanded capacity, upgraded equipment, and is better positioned than ever to serve the heat-treating needs in the Northwest, and to expand and hire more workers in the future,” Tobin said.

TriMet has a $196.5 million budget to address 129 partial and full property acquisitions needed to complete its $1.49 billion light-rail project from Portland to Milwaukie. While it was at one time estimated that it would cost between $13 million to $18 million to relocate the company, it actually cost about $12 million.

TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said it took a while for Beaver Heat Treating to determine what it wanted to do, and wheels did not start to turn in the moving process until the company augmented its condemnation attorney with a business consultant and business attorney.

“They were able to help Beaver Heat Treating evaluate the options for assistance available to businesses impacted by federally funded projects and choose the option that best aligned with Beaver’s business plan,” Fetsch said.

The company’s president added that it was a complicated agreement to write down, given all the contingencies and logistics.

“There were so many different teams from mechanical to electrical to figure out,” Tobin said. “All of those elements were crucial in their timing, so to get that all on paper was difficult.”

She agreed that the agreement would not have been possible “without a great team of people” she was able to get on her side.

“It took more than five years to come up with a solution for this unique business, and it’s encouraging that the operations at the new company are now even stronger, more robust and ready for the future,” Fetsch said.

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