Lima’s International Tank Service lands first international project

LIMA — One by one, 40 truckloads of fabricated steel will travel from International Tank Service’s fabrication facility in Lima to Ontario, Canada.

Everett “Butch” Kirk III calls it his Noah’s Ark: the Lima-based storage tank builder has spent the past year and a half negotiating contracts and building parts to construct four 1.5 million gallon oil storage tanks in Ontario, a first for the company in its 43 years of business.

“You could drive a car inside these things, that’s how big they are,” Kirk said.

More than 1.2 million pounds of fabricated steel will be exported to Canada over the next six months, as the storage tanks themselves will be built on-site by a Canadian contractor.

The first truckload for Ontario left International Tank Service’s Central Avenue fabrication facility on Wednesday. But the project started in January 2019.

A series of delays ensued as International Tank Service and its partners navigated import and export agreements amid negotiations for a new trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada (USMCA) and President Donald Trump’s threats to impose new tariffs on foreign goods.

A normal project, Kirk said, can take six to 12 months from contract negotiations to construction. This one is on track for two years.

International Tank Service has built more than 600 storage tanks in the U.S. since Kirk’s grandfather, Everett Kirk Sr., founding the company in 1977.

While the Lima company has worked with major corporations like Marathon, DuPont and Honda, Kirk describes his business as “the David of David and Goliath.”

“We’re a small player in a big industry,” he said.

Sales came to a halt in March, April and May, as demand for gasoline, jet fuel and diesel plummeted. ITS even lost a job in the Cleveland area, so the company applied for a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which helped ITS keep staff on payroll until business picked back up in the summer. Now, Kirk anticipates a stronger fourth quarter driven in part by demand for asphalt storage tanks, a niche the Lima business has carved out for itself in the industry.