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Cover-All building business sold

A Canadian maker of pre-engineered, fabric-covered shelters used for livestock barns and crop storage has been sold to one of its main competitors.

The assets of Calgary-based Cover-All Building Systems, which went into receivership in April, have been sold to Norseman Group, an Edmonton-based industrial fabric firm in the same lines of work, for an undisclosed sum.

The sale comes as Cover-All settles two lawsuits filed in the wake of the most highly-publicized collapse of one of its structures.

With the sale, effective June 11, Norseman Group will fold Cover-All’s assets into a new company, Norseman Structures Inc., which expects to resume operations at Cover-All’s Saskatoon manufacturing plant “within the next few weeks.”

The objective of Norseman Structures is “to continue supplying the largest network of fabric membrane building dealers in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand,” Norseman said in a release.

In the meantime, the Norseman Structures product line “will be available through our existing operations in Edmonton.”

Norseman noted in its release that it “continues to be pleasantly surprised” by the support it’s had from the Cover-All employees and dealer network.

“The ownership and management of Norseman Group are excited to be part of the Saskatoon community, and we are looking forward to working with the outstanding team at Cover-All,” Norseman Group president Ron Bryant said after meeting May 31 with former Cover-All employees.

With the Cover-All assets in hand, Norseman Structures “will have the broadest product line and one of the most extensive distribution networks for pre-engineered membrane structures in North America,” the buyer said in its release.

The Norseman Group notes it already has experience in agricultural shelters as well as in the transportation, construction, oil and gas, manufacturing, forestry, sports, special events and exploration sectors.

Meanwhile, one of Cover-All’s dealers in Ontario has started a new joint venture with a welding firm in that province to design and build pre-engineered membrane-covered buildings.

The new firm, based in Wingham, Ont., has dubbed itself Olympia Fabric Structures of Ontario, according to an article Thursday in the Ontario ag journal Better Farming.

The new Olympia company will “assume the warranty that Cover-All left behind,” the magazine quoted Olympia co-owner Ben Hogervorst as saying.

Olympia, which said it already has 13 Ontario Cover-All dealers on board with the new company, noted that its buildings will be stronger, with greater truss depth and heavier truss tubing.

Better Farming quoted Hogervorst as saying the new company expects its business to be about 70 per cent agricultural, 30 per cent commercial.

“Severe weather”

Cover-All, before the sale, had billed itself as the biggest supplier of pre-engineered membrane building systems in North America, with a market share of about 25 per cent. It had raised about 35,000 storage buildings worldwide.

Cover-All’s roots in Prairie farming dated back to 1993, when it was based in Saskatoon and focused largely on cattle and dairy storage and hay shelters. It went on to pioneer the use of membrane-covered structures as permanent buildings.

According to its management, the company’s sales peaked in 2008 but came under pressure in the subsequent worldwide economic downturn, reducing demand and pressuring prices.

The company was under further pressure following its decision to suspend production of all its building series lines, after a review found “potential engineering issues” with the company’s Titan bu 

ilding line.

Cover-All issued a safety notice in March to owners of Titan buildings, warning that some “may not meet the maximum combined wind and snow load capacity requirements” of applicable building codes.

Cover-All recommended owners of its buildings “engage a structural engineer to perform an analysis of your building to determine whether it meets all applicable building code requirements.”

Cover-All said that while it was “not in a position to make specific safety recommendations for all building lines… we encourage you to take precautions when using your building during any severe weather, including snow, sleet, freezing rain and high wind conditions.”

The best precaution, the company said, is to “avoid using your building during severe weather as well as when there is any buildup of snow or ice on the roof or sides of your building.”

The company had been named in suits filed by some customers, including some filed in Texas in connection with the collapse of a building in May last year during a severe storm with high winds. The building was being used as a practice facility by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Cowboys scout Rich Behm and special teams coach Joe DeCamillis later sued Cover-All and a U.S. subsidiary, Summit Structures of Allentown, Pa. According to the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, Behm was left paralyzed and DeCamillis suffered a broken vertebra when the practice facility collapsed.

Both men reached confidential out-of-court settlements last week with Cover-All, the newspaper said Wednesday.

But both are continuing their suits against two companies controlled by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, alleging those companies knew the building was not up to safety code, the Morning News said.

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