By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
Tacoma is a town full of surprises.
From global companies who found their often unheralded origins here (from Mars to Baskin & Robbins and many more) to the home, or at least way station for internationally recognized figures from Kurt Cobain to Buck Owens or The Ventures or The Sonics or even (my childhood favorite) a candy bar like The Mountain Bar, and various mafia figures finding a new life thanks to witness protection programs, if you want unexpected – or even unexplainable – from the first UFO sightings (in 1947: http://www.nicap.org/chronos/1947fullrep.htm) and the most Sasquatch sightings (https://www.bigfootmap.com/), Tacoma and the outlying area is your kind of place.
But sometimes a more believable event occurs (at least more believable than UFOs or Sasquatches), like when a local business, under the radar for most of us, makes its presence known, in a Tacoma kind of way, in the larger national or even international marketplace.
Weyerhauser, based in Tacoma for decades, now has its primary headquarters in Seattle.
A more recent example is the Stellar Industrial Supply acquisition of Phoenix-based Timesaver Industrial. This will be the company’s ninth acquisition in 15 years and bring its regional branch total to 13. Their expected 2022 sales volume will be about $125 million.
Stellar, with a focus on the aerospace industry, was slammed by the one-two punch of the Boeing’s 737 Max problems and the sudden slowdown in travel due to pandemic restrictions.
Stellar supplies products and tools to Boeing, as well as many of Boeing’s local and national suppliers. In an earlier acquisition, Stellar acquired the Sparks, Nevada-based JLM Industrial Supply Inc. And, in late 2021, it acquired Pennsylvania-based Robert G. Newton Inc. With these two new acquisitions, Stellar is now in eight states, including Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Aerospace, like the rest of the economy, is poised for recovery. In fact, Stellar expects to see $125 million in sales in 2022. That would be a rebound from 2020 when the company had $80 million in sales, down 20% from the year before.
As with other industries it seems, inflation, labor issues and supply chain disruptions are haunting every aspect of production and transportations. Labor costs may be a bit higher, but transportation costs and consistent control and predictability are at a far higher premium than just a few years ago.
Stellar, like a few other visionary companies, is looking beyond the immediate challenging circumstances and securing its place in the next, still-formulating economy.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I had never heard of Stellar Industrial Supply before now, but that’s something else I like about it.
Some companies in the past few years (like WeWork and Theranos) create lots of corporate buzz about what they can, will, and might do. Their promises, like too many of their products, are wispy fantasies that, like morning fog, evaporate the closer we get to them.
Those companies, and too many like them, with a focus on their charismatic and, at first at least, visionary entrepreneurial guiding spirits catch our notice – and headlines – and, all too often, collapse in lawsuits and unfulfilled potential.
And the occasional tell-all made-for-TV special.
On the other hand, a company like Stellar Industrial Supply, without much fanfare, just quietly, without much publicity or press coverage, gets to work and, when no one is looking, just as quietly expands its market reach.
Based in the Port of Tacoma, Stellar Industrial Supply is one of those many businesses many of us (literally) look over as we gaze over the waterfront or the mountain.
This is the kind of business that makes Tacoma – the quiet and yes, gritty company that gets to work and does the not-always glamorous work that no one else seems to want to do – or even notices when it is done; but everything slips into chaos when it is not done.
You can see more, or purchase some of their products from their website here: https://www.stellarindustrial.com/. They may not be a household name – yet, but stay tuned, you can expect them to be around for a while. And like many companies, you’ve probably been using their products without knowing it for a long time now.
The Port of Tacoma
The Port of Tacoma is one of the most dynamic – and overlooked areas of Tacoma.
The Port connects us with far distant economies and businesses – and support hundreds of local companies and many thousands of jobs and careers for individuals.
The Port is also the ultimate link between Tacoma’s past and our future.
From timber and marine products to industrial production and ferry (and other large water vehicle) maintenance, and construction to arts and residences on or alongside the water, the Port of Tacoma is a place like few on this earth.
You can see a directory of Port based businesses here: http://www.northtacoma.net/portoftacomatideflats.php.
Some day soon, we at the Index would like to plan an ear-to-the-ground forensic/tourist exploration of the wonders, puzzles, mysteries and surprises tucked in plain view, yet mostly out of sight of most of us.
The Port defines us as few geographical features ever could. Those lights are on all night.
There is always something going on down at The Port of Tacoma.