2 Northwest companies to merge

Saltchuk Resources Inc. is buying Interstate Distributor Co., a Parkland-based trucking company. The deal may close late this week.

Saltchuk, an investment company that owns, among other companies, Foss Maritime, Totem Ocean Trailer Express and Ilahie Holdings – which owns Tacoma’s Russell Building – has been securing the deal for the past several weeks.

Interstate Distributor Co. employs some 2,500 people nationwide, including more than 300 drivers, office staff and mechanics in the South Sound. According to its 2010 ranking of major employers, the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County said the company was Pierce County’s 58th largest employer.

Renee Trueblood, senior vice president of human resources and corporate counsel at Interstate, said Tuesday that she sees the transaction “as a new beginning. Saltchuk is going to allow us to move forward.”

Both Interstate and Saltchuk are family-owned. The price of the acquisition has not been released.

Mark Tabbut, Saltchuk chairman, said the transaction “is a big positive for Pierce County and Tacoma.”

The deal may close as early as Friday.

All Saltchuk companies, wholly owned, operate under their own management.

“We think this will be a great fit,” Trueblood said. “The existing management team will continue to lead the day-to-day operation of the company.”

With the infusion of capital, she said, the company’s first initiative will be to purchase new tractors.

“It’s really important to our drivers,” she said.

Interstate was founded in 1933 by Bob McLean.

“We’re going from a Northwest-based, family-owned company to a Northwest-based, family-owned company,” Trueblood said..

She said she had been hearing rumors related to a sale for several months.

Both Tabbut and Saltchuk President Tim Engle have roots in the South Sound.