Picking up the pieces at United Dominion.

Position:United Dominion Industries - Company profile

Picking up the pieces at United Dominion

Ever had the urge to move across the country, change your name and start fresh?

AMCA International acted on its urged, moving from Hanover, N.H., to Charlotte in 1989 and renaming itself United Dominion Industries last year.

Trouble at home is usually what's behind such a move, and this relocation was no exception. The '80s were lousy years for AMCA, so it's not surprising that its managers decided to ditch the name, which was a play on the company's American-Canadian heretage. But moving into plush headquarters in downtown Charlotte -- certainly no one in North Carolina has a finer collection of Canadian oil paintings -- doesn't change some things.

Ninety-five percent of the company's stock is still owned by Canadians, with railroad powerhouse Canadian Pacific holding 55 percent and Toronto investment manager McKenzie Financial Corp. claiming 22 percent. ANd United Dominion still must convince investors that its '80s tendency to try to do too many things has disappeared along with the name AMCA.

"The jury is still out on my program," says CEO William Holland. "But I know the quality of our businesses bettr than anyone else. I think we'ge going to surprise some people in the text three to five years."

Formed in Canada in 1982 to build bridges for Canadian Pacific, Dominion Bridge Co. Renamed itself AMCA in 1981 as it expanded southward. The Company has supplied steel for many of Canada's giant construction projects, including the retractable roof at the Sky-Dome, home of the Toronto Blu Jays baseball team. Sales rose from $521 million in 1977 to ,1.1 billion in 1985 as the company bought a dozen American companies in a wide variety of businesses.

United Dominion is a very large company. It is North Carolina's fourth-largest publicly held manufacturer and big enough to be in the top half of the Fortune 500, though it doesn't qulify for the list because it is Canadian-owned. It sells metal building. It designs and engineers oil refineries and chemical plants. It makes Waukesha pumps, used in dozens of industrial processes. It produces Anco cutting equipment, which slices 90 percent of North America's bacon. It is the world's largest manufacturer of landfillcompaction equipment.

The buying spree that left it with all these businesses excited investors, and the number of stockholders grew by 55 percent, from 4,397 in '79 to nearly 6,800 in '82.

But AMCA's biggest mistake in the '80s was its biggest...

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