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October 23, 2013

Unalam celebrates 50 years in Sidney

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A multigenerational family business that began in Unadilla celebrated a milestone on Tuesday

Unalam, which makes laminated wood structures, first moved a portion of its manufacturing to Sidney 50 years ago, its president Craig Van Cott said. He is the fifth-generation in the business. The company completed moving its manufacturing to Sidney in the ‘80’s. The business started when the Van Cott family selling lumber in Unadilla in 1892. It still maintains facilities there, including engineering and offices.

When the company was getting ready to unveil its new “Unalam” logo, Van Cott said he thought it was an opportunity to celebrate the event. The company held a square dance when it opened its facility off of Delaware Avenue, he said.

This year it decided to hold tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including lunch, around the event, he said.

 “We are still the same company, stressing wood products and customer service,” he said, before the unveiling that included invited guests.

The logo, including the name and a beam, “reflects our many years in business and the quality we strive for,” Van Cott said. It is an attempt to strengthen the corporate identity, by eliminating other names the company has used over the years.

Conducting one of the tours was 6th generation Leif Van Cott, vice president of operations. He explained to the more than a dozen people in that group what happens to the wood from the time it comes in the facility until it leaves as a finished product. Over the years this included a broad range of products, from spiral staircases, to 125-foot laminated poles often used for cell towers, to a section of the Erie Canal.

Zoe van der Meulen, another of the 6th generation, is vice president of communications. People in the area might be familiar with company products including the roof beams in the Southside Mall and the Boys and Girls Club in Oneonta, she said.

“All the work we do is custom,” so its important to build relationships with those who might need the products, she said. 

The company employs 40 in its two locations, with 30 in Sidney. This is down from about 150 overall in the 70s and 80s.

“Competition has forced us to do more with less,” she said. 

But with a resurgence in wood building, that comes from an increased interest in the environment and sustainability, “the future is promising,” she said.

While, “we have to stretch our imagination and product capability, if it can be done with wood, we can do it.”

Among those in attendance was Bob Kaseguma, who retired from a 45-year career with the company two years ago. He was the vice president of engineering. The company always produced a superior product, he said. The Unadilla resident said he has good memories of his years with the company.

Unadilla Mayor David Welch also was at the event. With offices still in Unadilla, he wanted to show his support.

 “It’s a great family-owned business.”