October 1, 2013

Allagash International expands into Venezuela

South Portland-based valve manufacturer Allagash International is expanding its presence in South America by opening an office in Venezuela's largest city and its capital, Caracas.

CEO Terry Ingram told Mainebiz the company plans to have four employees in its Caracas office. Earlier this year, the company set up an office in the Colombian capital of Bogota, where Allagash will have seven employees by the end of the year. Those employees provide engineering services and factory direct sales of the company's valves, mostly for the oil and gas industries.

"Right now, we have over $100 million in bids out between Colombia and Venezuela and we are working those opportunities very hard," Ingram said.

That expansion follows years of rapid growth in the amount of international business the company does each year. Gene Wendland, the company's vice president and CFO, said exports made up just 2% of the company's business in 2011, increasing to 12% in 2012. This year, he said, the company expects around 45% of its business will be in other countries.

While Allagash is now doing business in about 50 countries, Venezuela and Colombia are the only ones where the company has decided to incorporate. The company also has an assembly facility in the eastern European country of Kazakhstan. The decision to incorporate two entities in Latin America has been a long time coming, Ingram said.

"It's the same as going to Colombia or even going to Texas from Maine — you have to take your time and do your due diligence and your preparation and decide if you're going to commit," he said.

Ingram said that operating in Venezuela presents a challenge because the country's government often does not agree with U.S. foreign policy. Earlier today, the country's president, Nicolas Maduro, expelled three U.S. diplomats, alleging their involvement in acts of sabotage to destabilize the country.

Not speaking to that incident directly, Ingram said he's typically able to distance himself from such conflicts in the foreign countries where Allagash does business.

"I always tell people that the political relationships with the United States shouldn't reflect my business relationships with those countries, unless it's a national security issue," Ingram said. "If it's not that, I should be no different than the guy coming from China or Germany or elsewhere."


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