By Jim Davis <i>HBJ Editor</i>
EVERETT — It’s a busy morning at North Sound Hose &Fittings.
Warehouseman Larry Hansford is using a heater to put aluminum fittings into the ends of ribbed hoses for a contractor.
Another worker, Clarence Frank, is blowing compressed air through a smaller hydraulic hose to get any dust or impurities out of it.
General manager Mark (Hoss) Hostutler is busy working in the corner.
It’s a close group who works at the business, which has been around 30 years providing all sorts of hoses for industrial and commercial businesses around Snohomish County.
Just four people work at the shop — Margie Strand is the office manager — that’s a block east of Broadway by I-5 in Everett. That means that everyone pitches in to get the work done.
“It’s a fun crew,” said Hansford, who has worked at North Sound for eight years. “I wouldn’t work here if it wasn’t.”
The close group just underwent a major change.
Alaska Rubber Group on Oct. 28 purchased North Sound Hose and four other businesses in Washington that provides hoses and fittings.
The other businesses are in Spokane, Pasco, Tacoma and Seattle. Alaska Rubber, with headquarters in Anchorage, is an employee-owned business, which means that employees get stock in the company to be cashed out when they leave or retire.
It’s a reunion of sorts.
All of the businesses were owned by the same partnership originally founded by brothers Don and Drennon Adams.
In 2006, the employees of the Anchorage store bought the location from the partnership and added a location in Wasilla, Alaska. In 2009, the employees bought the Fairbanks business. And now, Alaska Rubber has bought the Washington locations, effectively doubling the size of the organization.
“I have known a lot of those employees a long time — I’ve been here 26 years — to give them the opportunity to be employee-owned was very special,” said Janeece Higgins, CEO and president of Alaska Rubber who works in Anchorage.
North Sound Hose employees are excited about the opportunity to work for themselves.
“When you’re employee-owned — how do I put this — you strive to do better,” said Strand, who has worked for North Sound Hose for more than 16 years. “It isn’t going into someone else’s pocket.”
North Sound Hose &Fittings provides rubber, plastic, fabric and PVC hoses with mainly aluminum or stainless steel fittings custom-made for the customer’s specifications.
Clients have included contractors, coffee businesses, truck drivers and others.
“We had our first customer come in from a pot shop,” Strand said.
The crew at North Sound Hose said they were happy about the previous owners, but they’ve been in impressed with the changeover.
Alaska Rubber is offering more training and better opportunities to transfer between stores. And the company is creating continuity between locations such as putting everyone on the same computer system.
“Employees have more of a say,” Hansford said. “In fact, that’s a must. They want to hear from us.”
He said he wishes he was a younger man to fully take advantage of the employee stock plan.
Hostutler, Everett’s general manager, said he expects the same closeness to continue under the new ownership.
“We all work together and look out for each other,” Hostutler said. “Especially now, it’s our own game.”