UFAB, a Salt Lake City-based fabrication shop, proudly describes its workforce as “union.” That’s because its SMART sheet metal workers have helped the company achieve outstanding growth over a relatively short period of time: doubling the size of its physical space, upgrading its equipment and expanding its workforce.

“Since August 24, 2018 — the day the company signed with Local 312 (Salt Lake City, Utah) — they have updated all their brakes and shears and all their fabrication equipment, with a state-of-the-art laser table,” said Local 312 Business Representative Cody Leamaster. “They have gone from a 100,000-square-feet building to 200,000 square feet.”

The birth of UFAB — which specializes in fabricating air handling units, as well as HVAC installation, maintenance and repair — started with the popularity of another area company, Unitech Manufacturing.

“An influx of orders at Unitech created workforce shortages, and the need arose for more skilled labor for the manufacturing of the company’s air handlers,” explained Leamaster. “So Chris Oberle, the owner of Midgley-Huber — which represents Unitech, at the time owned by Reed Rowland — reached out to Kevin Kuehn, who was in management at Cherrington’s Sheet Metal, a signatory contractor with Local 312.”

Kuehn, who knew first-hand the value of union craftsmanship, contacted Local 312 Business Manager Tony Ericksen, working out a deal to “loan” a handful of sheet metal workers to Unitech. It didn’t take long for the Local 312 members to make their presence felt; eventually, Kuehn encouraged Oberle to make the situation permanent by visiting the hall and signing with the union.

“Chris then created UFAB so he could become a signatory contractor; that way, he could have his own union workforce to manufacture and install air handler units,” Leamaster said.

UFAB signed with Local 312 in August 2018, and eventually, Oberle ended up purchasing Unitech in July 2021. Since then, the company’s rise has been meteoric: As of November 7, 2023, they are employing 57 building trades sheet metal workers and counting. (The company also signed with IBEW Local 354 in order to employ four building trades electricians.)

The union sheet metal workers design, fabricate, manufacture, powder coat and assemble everything in house. And along with service, refrigeration and controls, the install crew actually journeys out into the field to perform installation work, making UFAB a truly full-service shop.

In all, both the signatory process and the shop’s success are a testament to the union advantage.

“Special recognition goes to the teamwork that helped make this happen: Kevin Kuehn, Tony Ericksen and Chris Oberle, along with the hard work of our Local 312 members and the apprenticeship training program,” Leamaster concluded.