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Vol. 12, No. 44 Week of November 04, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

PETROLEUM DIRECTORY: Family-owned Totem Equipment & Supply thrives on innovation

From Anchorage’s Convention Center to remote Alaska villages, Totem Equipment & Supply keeps Alaska workers safe and warm

Q. When was the company founded, who founded it, and what was its original name?

A. Cliff and Allie Huston founded the company in 1961. Its original name remains the same, Totem Equipment & Supply Inc. In February 1993 we formed a new company, naming it Totem Rentals Inc., with Mike Huston as president. This not only filled a market niche but utilized adjacent properties we owned. Totem Rentals has been a platform to introduce Totem’s heater trailers to the contractor on a rent-to-own basis.

Q. Where is your company located? Does it have more than one location?

A. We have a sales, service, rental and fabrication facility in Anchorage, at 2536 Commercial Drive. We also have a fabrication and rental facility in Wasilla at 300 East Susitna that was completed two years ago. Altogether, we have more than 25,000 square feet of space to meet all our operational needs.

Q. Who heads up your company and who is on its senior management team?

A. President Allie Huston and son Mike Huston, vice president, manage the company since Cliff Huston retired. Mike Stevens manages Totem Rentals and Rick Bond manages the Service and Fabrication Division. It’s a fairly informal management system, but it works.

Q. What is the company’s primary business sector? What services does the company offer?

A. Our primary business sectors are the construction and industrial sectors. Totem Equipment and Totem Rentals offer sales, service and rentals of construction and industrial equipment. The manufacturing division designs and builds compact, easily transportable heater systems. Our customers tell us what they need and, if we can’t find it, we figure out how to build it. Our specialty is problem-solving, and we continually make design improvements based on cold-weather conditions or other special needs, whether it be in Alaska, Russia or South Korea.

Our major product lines are Toyota lift trucks, Terex construction equipment, Ice Frost Fighter heaters, SureFlame gas-fired heaters, Clemco sand blasters, Genie personnel lifts, Mustang skid loaders, Multi-Quip construction equipment, Wacker products and, of course, our own Alaska-manufactured Totem heater trailers and built-to-specification heaters. With access to more than 200 product lines, we can get what our customers need.

Q. Who are the company’s main clients?

A. Our main clients are oil companies, oil field contractors, general and subcontractors, state, city and village governments, Alaska Native corporations, the military and federal agencies.

Q. How many employees does your company have? How many in each of its locations?

A. We have approximately 25 full-time employees — 10 at Totem Anchorage, nine at Totem Rentals Anchorage and five at Totem Wasilla.

Q. Is your company expanding any of its operations and/or locations?

A. We’ve been busy doing just that. We put the new branch in Wasilla in 2005, built a new fabrication facility that same year, expanded the fabrication shop in 2006 and finished a new shop in 2007. In 2004 we expanded into the export market, which continues to grow.

Q. Is the company changing any of its services?

A. We are always looking to expand services in our areas of expertise. We know the Alaska climate and what works here and what doesn’t. Fortunately we’re light on our feet and can build or alter products to suit just about any need.

Q. What is your company’s main strength, i.e. its edge over the competition?

A. We’ve spent the last 46 years serving our construction and industrial customers. Over time we earned a solid reputation as a company that’s professional, is dedicated to meeting customer needs, and will do what is necessary to get the job done. Our entire staff takes pride in everything they do.

Q. What new markets, clients and/or projects did your company attract in the last year?

A. Going back a little farther, to 2004, we shipped our first order of 13 Totem 10, 1 million-Btu heater trailers to VECO Sakhalin, a subsidiary of VECO Alaska, and then shipped another 15 units. We subsequently received another order for 50 heater trailers to Sakhalin, Russia. The South Korea Air Force also ordered 12 Totem 5-GSE self-contained heaters, a heater prototyped and developed especially for the Air Force’s ground support.

Q. Has the company invested in any new technology in the last two years?

A. We’re designing and introducing a better, more efficient heater. We are always looking at ways to improve our heater designs and performance. Over time we have changed or tweaked almost everything a little. We have, for example recently shrunk the physical size of the heaters. Without getting too technical, we always look for ways to improve our product. All of our heaters are portable and provide self-contained, clean, safe heat with no fumes or carbon monoxide and feature easy cold-weather starting.

Q. What is the most challenging job the company has undertaken? 

A. Without a doubt Korea wins first prize in the “challenging” department. The actual design and implementation from paper to steel faced some road blocks due to language differences. Additionally, the logistics of shipping, delivery schedules to meet, plus on-site training at two Korean army bases through an interpreter, mixed in with jet lag, and a fairly accurate picture forms. Michael Stevens, the rental manager, was the man on site with two trips to Korea.

Q. What are the biggest obstacles to completing work the company undertakes?

A. Totem companies have the same problems today that they have always had: Meeting schedules and providing services due to the complications created by distance and travel. There is no question here in Alaska that rarely is everything you need available next door.

Q. What do you see as future trends or opportunities for your company from events such as long-term weather fluctuations?

A. We feel these two questions are really tied together. We believe our future opportunities will occur through the continued development and marketing of Alaska’s gas and oil. Our biggest challenge as a state will be to overcome the negativity, promoted by outside sources, to prevent our developing the state’s natural resources.

Q. What is the average length of time your employees work for the company? Are you hiring for any positions?

A. Our oldest employee in length of service is Michael Stevens, rental manager, who was hired in February 1993 when Totem Rentals was started. Rick Bond, the service and fabrication manager, joined us in July of 1995.

In fact, our managers are all an experienced team averaging 20 years of service.

Q. What is your company’s safety record?

A. We make a real effort with a full-time safety officer who holds mandatory safety meetings for ALL employees once a month. With the exception of some minor scrapes and bruises our safety record is excellent.

Q. Do you maintain a Web site?

A. Our Web site is Our Anchorage contact information is:

Phone: (907) 276-2858, Fax: (907) 258-4623, and E-mail: [email protected]

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