Buying into a bright future
Employee-owned Alaska Rubber & Rigging Supply thrives with help from First National
Hustle and bustle begins early each day within the Alaska Rubber & Rigging Supply offices and shops in Alaska and Washington.
The dedicated employees who took ownership of the company wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’re always talking about our next steps and making sure we’re catering to our customers,” said Scott Boyle, who manages Alaska Rubber’s Fairbanks facility. “The goal every minute of every day is to make sure customers have everything they need.”
Alaska Rubber & Rigging Supply, aka Alaska Rubber Group (ARG), distributes hydraulic and industrial hose, fittings and rigging supplies to customers in the oil, mining and construction industries and to local governments. Established in 1980, ARG is employee-owned with 111 employees and features stores in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai, Wasilla and five locations in Washington.
“With so much advancement in all the industries we work with, ARG has seen an increase in the amount of specialty projects we’ve been asked to help facilitate,” Boyle said.
Because of those specifics, in-depth knowledge and understanding of numerous products and services is integral to ARG’s day-to-day operations. The same can be said for First National Bank Alaska, which is why ARG sees Alaska’s largest locally-owned bank as a good fit for its operations.
“First National has always been a great partner for us,” ARG President and CEO Janeece Higgins said. “I’m not sure how much stronger our relationship could be.”
Full of great ideas
Higgins initiated ARG’s transfer of ownership to the company’s employees in 2004. It came to fruition two years later.
“We started the process of buying the Anchorage store because we were interested in rewarding employees who played a pivotal role in what we do,” Higgins said. “People working for themselves make a big difference in how you treat the customer when he or she walks in your front door.”
Higgins had a personal banking relationship with First National, but the previous ARG owners did their business banking elsewhere. Higgins called on longtime banker Bill Renfrew because of her pleasant past experience with First National.
“The other bank didn’t seem to understand what we were trying to do,” Higgins said. “We knew First National had the local expertise and knowledge and Bill essentially said, ‘What do you need?’
“Renfrew and the bank showcased a level of customer service you don’t always find.”
The bank helped ARG finance the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) for the Anchorage purchase. In following years, the relationship strengthened and led to employees buying stores elsewhere, including the expansion to the Washington locations.
Today, ARG also relies on First National for many of its cash management services like direct deposit payroll and the bank’s Deposit Advantage remote capture service.
“Each idea and proposal they brought to us made all the sense in the world,” said Renfrew, a First National Senior Vice President and its Regional Manager for Interior Alaska. “I’ve always been impressed with Janeece and ARG’s operation.
“The move Outside really worked well because it allowed ARG to diversify their business base.”
“Treat you how we’d like to be treated”
As it looks to the future, ARG will continue to focus on its customers.
Operations in Washington have allowed the company to branch out into different industries like agriculture, fishing and a few wineries.
“We’ve had to become experts on some different product lines because of our expansion,” Boyle said.
Still, meeting the needs of customers remains the focus. Look around. Just about any job involving a truck, a boat or any piece of heavy equipment likely includes products and services provided by ARG.
“Every phone call, every email, every customer interaction, we’re going to treat you how we’d like to be treated so you keep coming back,” Higgins said. “A lot of our employees were born and raised in these communities where the work is being done, so we cherish our ability to help out our neighbors.”