Whatcom County’s Top 100 Private Companies

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The A’s have it. Alpha. Axiom. And, Andgar.

In this annual ranking of the Top 100 Private-Owned Companies in Whatcom County, that trio stands out. To wit:

Seven years ago, the Alpha Group—anchored by Alpha Technologies in Bellingham—started its run of seven years at No. 1.

Three years ago, Axiom in Lynden and its founder/CEO Tim Koetje adorned the cover of the Top 100 issue.

They’re both back in the brightest lights, Alpha because it transitioned to new ownership, and Axiom because it showed the most growth—over 30%.

Andgar, ranked No. 37, enjoyed a gain of about 20%.

The list reflects 2019 sales and employment figures that aggregately produced more than $5 billion and created more than 16,000 jobs—about 59% of them locally.

Alpha Technologies went through its first full year under EnerSys (NYSE) in Reading, Pennsylvania, thereby joining two other local powers—Haggen and Hempler Foods Group—as still locally operated even though they have all become divisions of large conglomerates based elsewhere.

Hempler in Ferndale operates independently under the umbrella of Premium Brands (TSX) in Richmond, British Columbia. (Last year, company patriarch Dick Hempler, a former Business Pulse Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, died at 82.)

Haggen was sold in 2016 to Albertson’s (Boise, Idaho) but operates out of Barkley Village in Bellingham. Haggen, ranked No. 2, was the perennial leader before Alpha took the lead in 2013. The top producer with local ownership is construction giant Exxel Pacific.

The newest accumulative results provide an added important perspective this year: Given the nationwide economy shutdown during the first half of 2020, this listing will give a clear picture of the effects on Whatcom County’s free-enterprise landscape.

The 2019 results indicate a consistent stability, with only a handful of companies showing a drop in revenues. Several companies, such as (alphabetically) Axiom, Barkley, Hardware Sales, Jansen, Roger Jobs Motors, and Skeers Contruction, gained enough to move up in category and ranking.

Axiom made the largest gains in 2019—jumping into the $80-plus million range, catapulting it from No. 20 to No. 13 with over a 30% increase in business and 155 more employees than in ’18.

When Axiom was a front-cover story, Koetje told Business Pulse that their goal was $100 million and 300 employees by the end of 2020. In June this year, on the rush of a continued rise in projects and constant hiring during the first quarter, he projected that they would meet or exceed that.

Other items of significant interest:
Drew Zogby assumed the president/CEO role at Alpha Technologies in Bellingham, while former top executive Fred Kaiser continues his career there on the board of directors and retains 3% stock ownership.

Two prominent companies sold: Diehl Ford was rebranded as Bellingham Ford & Lincoln within an automobile group in Aberdeen owned by Rich Hartman of Olympia. And, Anderson Paper & Packaging similarly continues in Ferndale but is now under the brand of Walter E. Nelson Company (home office in Portland, Oregon).

Download the 2020 Top 100 list here.