Irex Contracting Group’s history can be traced to the early years of the twentieth century when the Armstrong Cork Company started installing its cork insulation products in cold storage facilities.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Armstrong built this operation into a national insulation contracting business through the acquisition of a number of local insulation contracting companies. In the process, Armstrong extended its range of contracting capabilities to include medium- and high-temperature insulation products for commercial and industrial applications.
After World War II, Armstrong’s profit results for contracting were disappointing. To address this problem, in 1958, Armstrong created a new wholly-owned subsidiary called Armstrong Contracting and Supply Corporation. The primary purpose of this new Armstrong subsidiary was to separate the insulation contracting operations from the rest of Armstrong’s business so that the contracting operations could operate as an independent contracting company. This action proved successful, and the principles of increased specialization, decentralization and local management empowerment became ingrained in the company’s culture.
In the late 1960s, Armstrong re-evaluated its strategic direction and decided to divest itself of certain businesses that did not fit within its “interior world” concept. Included among those businesses was Armstrong Contracting and Supply Corporation. Fortunately, Armstrong very much wanted its subsidiary employees to leave on good terms, so it accepted a proposal whereby Armstrong Contracting and Supply Corporation would change its name to ACandS, Inc. and be sold to its employees in a leveraged buy-out transaction.
Irex Corporation (then known as North Lime Corporation) was formed in 1969 for the purpose of bringing about this transaction. With monies raised from a stock sale to 31 individuals, the majority of whom were existing or retired ACandS employees, Irex acquired all of the outstanding capital stock of ACandS from Armstrong on July 31, 1969. In 1970, Irex offered all salaried employees the opportunity to purchase shares in the new company in a stock offering registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The history of the organization during the decade of the 1970s was almost exclusively the history of ACandS and its Canadian counterpart, ACandS Contracting Ltd. (The Canadian subsidiary was renamed Altair Contracting Ltd. in January 2002.) These companies worked hard during this period to establish themselves as successful, independent contractors and to reduce the large debt that Irex incurred when it purchased them. By the end of the decade, Irex proved its success by having a run of highly profitable years and paid off its purchase debt in its entirety.
The modern era for Irex began in the early 1980s when management began to look for ways to diversify the business and to achieve the organization’s full potential. Irex became a parent service corporation for ACandS, Altair and several new operating subsidiaries specializing in other areas of specialty contracting and building materials distribution.
In late 1992, Irex engaged in a stock recapitalization. The primary purpose was to enable common shareholders with differing investment objectives the opportunity to exchange a portion of their common stock for preferred stock with a fixed dividend yield and redemption rights. The effect was a substantial increase in the percentage of common stock owned by current employees, both directly and through the Irex Employee Stock Ownership and Irex Savings Incentive Plans. This afforded current employees an investment opportunity similar to the one made available to the previous generation of employees through the 1969 and 1970 transactions. Notable jobs during this period included the Berwick and Limerick nuclear power facilities, the Russian and Canadian Embassies in Washington, DC, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino, the Portland, Jacksonville and Baltimore stadiums, and the Husky Upgrader in Edmonton.
During the ensuing years, Irex continued to expand its capabilities and scope through the establishment of several new subsidiaries and several strategic acquisitions.
In total, Irex and its subsidiaries employ over 1,500 men and women working out of 40 office locations throughout the United States and Canada. Irex Contracting Group has become one of the 50 largest specialty contracting organizations in the United States and is a recognized leader in its fields, committed on a daily basis to providing respect and opportunity for its employees and great service to its customers.