by: TRIBUNE PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon Ironworks builds streetcar through its United Streetcar division in Clackamas. The company is merging with Vigor Industrial, which owns a shipyard in the Portland Harbor.Two of the largest industrial companies in the Portland region are merging. Oregon Iron Works and Vigor Industrial announced the companies are joining forces on Wednesday.

Clackamas-based OIW is specialty manufacturing firm with commercial, marine, nuclear, aerospace, hydroelectric, defense and transportation divisions. Among other products, it manufacturers the streetcars used in Portland and a growing number of other American cities.

Vigor Industrial is a leading provider of shipbuilding, ship repair and other industrial services in the Pacific Northwest. Its assets include a large ship repair yard in the Portland harbor with 665 employees.

According to officials from the two companies, the merger creates the critical mass of innovation, infrastructure and financial strength needed to pursue even more complex projects, enter new markets and win more work than either could separately. OIW’s unique fabrication abilities combined with Vigor’s shipbuilding, heavy lifting and marine launch capabilities will allow the combined company to complete large-scale, complex projects that neither company could do alone, the officials say.

“I’ve spent the last 40 years building Oregon Iron Works into a company with some of the country’s most advanced fabrication capabilities, and we’ve been looking for ways to evolve to the next level and compete in a broader market spectrum,” said Terry Aarnio, OIW Chairman of the Board. “Vigor builds and repairs ships. OIW builds boats and other projects with complex fabrication, machining, and integration requirements. Vigor has some of the west coast’s largest shipyard industrial facilities and great marine industrial workers.”

“This combination positions the company to meet upcoming demand from various industrial and marine sectors,” said Vigor CEO and Owner Frank Foti. “Not only will diversification allow us to better weather the ups and downs of the marine industry, incorporating good fabrication genetics from non-marine sectors is great way to achieve world-class shipbuilding standards in the U.S.”

“It’s ‘Industrial Evolution’ and it’s what our economy needs,” Foti said. “We’re doing everything we can to build and sustain family-wage industrial jobs.”

The two companies had previously worked together in 2006 to start U.S. Barge, a barge-building company. It continued until 2010 when Vigor Industrial acquired and continued the operation. Thomas J. Hickman, OIW's Vice President Sales and Marketing, says officials of the two companies stayed in touch and continued exploring potential joint undertakings.

Talks about merging started a few months ago, Hickman says, and quickly gained momentum. No government or public-private economic development organizations were involved in them.

According to the May 21 announcement, the two companies agreed to terms on May 20th, and expect the merger to be finalized before the end of June. Under the terms of the merger, OIW will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Vigor Industrial. The combined company will employ about 2,300 people in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

Founded in 1944 in Portland, OIW has been under the same management since 1974. The company has been building high performance aluminum, composite and steel hulled marine craft for the United States and other governments and commercial operators since 1984, with over 300 boats delivered. It currently employs more than 480 employees and is headquartered near I-205 in Clackamas, Oregon, with additional manufacturing facilities in Vancouver, Washington.

Vigor Industrial currently has 1,800 employees and seven subsidiaries. The company has three full service yards in Portland, Seattle, and Ketchikan, Alaska, and specialty shipyards in Tacoma, Everett, and Port Angeles. It builds vessels including fishing boats, tugs, barges and ferries. The company also repairs and modernizes a wide range of commercial and government vessels, from ferries and fishing boats, barges, workboats and platform supply vessels. Total capacity includes 10 drydocks, more than 17,000 square feet of dedicated pier space, half a million square feet of covered fabrication and shop area, and more than 50 cranes with lifting capacity up to 600 tons.

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