WILTON – Nearly 50 people, among them state Sen. Chandler Woodcock, state Rep. Tom Saviello and Town Manager Peter Nielsen, congregated inside Nichols Bass building Tuesday morning to watch Sally Nichols break a bottle of champagne on the back of the truck taking the first batch of trailers to the ship that will take them to Iraq.
The 12 fuel trailers, built by Nichols Custom Welding, Inc., are the first of 216 due in Umm Qasr, Iraq, within the next 120 days as part of a $3.1 million government contract. If the military is satisfied with the Nichols’ work, said company President Gil Reed, Nichols welders may be asked to make another 840 trailers, for around $13.7 million. “We fought like cats and dogs to get to this place,” Reed said Tuesday. “We still want to maintain the Wilton trailer company, but we also want to get out into the world,” he added.
The trailers, painted desert-camouflage tan and sporting stickers in English and in Arabic reading “Fuel Only, Flammable,” were finished a week ahead of schedule, Reed said, to the credit of his welders, all of whom clapped when Sally Nichols broke the champagne bottle on the truck.
But even now, with so much looking up for Nichols Custom Welding, company executives are biting their nails. After the trailer order was modified so that 216, instead of 50, trailers are required to be in Iraq before Nichols gets paid, the company is looking for a $2.5 million loan to buy them supplies and labor until mid-August, when Reed expects to be paid.
The town of Wilton has agreed Tuesday night to act as conduit for an Interim Financing Loan from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, but Nichols has yet to find a bank to back the loan.