UNION — Steve Ladd, president and CEO of Steel-Pro in Rockland, said the company has been dreaming about building a new facility since the company became employee-owned in 2014.

“‘Dream facility’ is a good way to describe it,” Ladd said.

So while the announcement that the custom fabrication company was moving to Union was called “probably one of the worst kept secrets” by Union Town Manager Jay Feyler, that has not dampened any of the enthusiasm from the company.

Steel-Pro purchased the former B.M. Clark building on Route 17 in Union, and the company announced at the start of August plans to build a new facility on the property and move operations there. Ladd said he expected it to take between two and four years until the new facility was built and ready for the move.

Ladd said the company has outgrown the space in Rockland in the last five years, and it was time to find a new location. “Everyone here deserves a facility that is state-of-the-art,” he said, and the new building will be about twice the size of their current facility. The extra space will allow Steel-Pro to take on more projects and hire additional employees as well.

Steel-Pro will be tearing down the current building on the property, building their new facility and relocating the whole business to Union, Ladd said.

The current property and facility for Steel-Pro in Rockland are for sale, Ladd said, but any possible sale will not change the move to Union. If the land sells before that move, Steel-Pro will have a leaseback with the buyer. This will allow continued operations at the Rockland location until the Union facility is ready.

“We won’t have any interruption in production,” Ladd added.

Feyler said working with Steel-Pro to facilitate the purchase was a pleasure and the company will bring tremendous benefits to Union.

The land was originally purchased by the William Pullen Trust, which was created to facilitate recreational opportunities in Union. Part of the land was given to the town for a recreational space, and part sold to Steel-Pro.

Ladd said Steel-Pro worked with Union and the trust to purchase part of the land and create an agreement. The company paid for the site plan for the new recreational space, and will work with the town to fund the recreational space on the remaining Clark property.

A top factor in choosing Union for the new location was the radius of potential new employees, Ladd said. “It should open us up to a whole new opportunity for new employees,” he added.

Steel-Pro is a custom fabricating and welding facility, which means they create and supply equipment. Ladd said about 40% of the company’s business is in the bio-pharmaceutical industry. “We supply equipment that is used for companies like Moderna and Pfizer,” he said.

This means some of the products and customers were involved in Operation Warp Speed to create the first COVID-19 vaccines.

Ladd said being involved in the vaccine production was incredible. “We already have a culture here where we are proud of the products we make and our employee owners,” he said. Knowing that their company was providing important equipment to create the vaccine was just more reason to be proud of their products.

Steel-Pro also creates custom pressure vessels and vacuum chambers for medicines and chemicals, and specialty equipment involved in finding cures for very rare illnesses, among other projects.

Thomas Kennedy, director of business development for Steel-Pro, said the company was a small part of the greater picture, but their work was “a very big deal” to the employees.

Steel-Pro has been an employee-owned business known as an ESOP since private owner Chris Beebe sold the company to the employees in 2014.

An ESOP is an employee stock ownership plan, where employees own the business through owning shares in the company.

The current Steel-Pro facility in Rockland. Courtesy of Steel-Pro

Vessels created by Steel-Pro. Courtesy of Steel-Pro

Vessels created by Steel-Pro, used in facility that manufactured some of the Moderna vaccine. Courtesy of Steel-Pro