Atlas Castings & Technology, founded at the turn of the 20th century, stands as perhaps Tacoma’s oldest – and one of Pierce County’s larger – manufacturers.
The Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County earlier this year counted the company, with 503 workers, as the county’s 44th-largest employer.
The company is still known to many as Atlas Foundry, the name it held until 2002. The foundry was formed in 1899, producing iron castings for the Northwest logging industry. It remains in its original location in the Nalley Valley.
Natives are still known to drive Wilkeson Street between Center Street and South Tacoma Way just to see inside the large foundry doors and watch as workers manipulate enormous machines to produce fantastic-appearing metal castings.
The company was in the news recently as the fabricator of 20-ton “splay saddles” for the new Tacoma Narrows bridge. The SUV-sized hardware cradles the main cables at the bridge’s anchorages and tower tops. The company also produced the saddles that hold the cables for the 1950 Narrows Bridge.
According to the Atlas Web site, Tacoma’s Long family bought the company 30 years after it was founded. The family sold the company in 1975, and bought it again in 1985. Following a prolonged strike, the family sold the company again in 1989.
In 2002, after its Texas parent had spent nearly a year reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company was sold again. A group of 12 South Sound employees and a Texas venture capitalist bought Atlas for $14 million with a bid to the trustee overseeing the former owner, TIC United Corp. of Dallas.
Duane Britschgi, Atlas president and CEO, said then, “We believe in what we’re doing. We’ve thought about this for years, if an opportunity came along.”
The consortium included Britschgi, Houston venture capitalist Byron Snyder and 11 other Atlas employees.
“Now it’s time to make some money for ourselves,” Britschgi said. “We’ll keep it here rather than sending it to Dallas.”
The company produces what are known as “high-integrity castings.” They can range from 10 to 48,000 pounds in more than 130 alloys, including stainless steel and nickel-based materials.
Products, according to the Web site, serve markets that require such items as pumps, valves, turbines and compressors in the nuclear, shipbuilding and offshore well-drilling industries, among others.
The main foundry, spread over 18 acres, contains 500,000 square feet of covered floor space.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535
Atlas Castings & Technology
1899: Atlas Foundry & Machine Co. founded.
1929: Tacoma’s Long Family buys company.
1975: Atlas sold to US Filter Corp.
1980: Ashland Oil buys US Filter.
1984: Atlas establishes Atlas International.
1985: Ashland divests all non-oil assets. Long family again buys Atlas.
1989: Following prolonged strike, Atlas sold to TIC United Corp.
2002: Welding accident leads to two-alarm fire that causes $850,000 damage to maintenance shop.
2002: With TIC United in bankruptcy, group of Atlas employees and Texas venture capitalist buy Atlas.
2002: Company name changed to Atlas Castings & Technology.Sources: Atlas Web site and News Tribune files