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Portal Service folds

An oilfield service company that moved to Kenmare less than a year ago, has laid off nearly all of its employees and has closed the doors to its business.

11/18/14 (Tue)

Shut down... There were no office lights on and the front door to the Portal Service Co., in Kenmare was locked Friday morning as company officials disclosed last week that the company's assets are being dissolved.

By Marvin Baker

An oilfield service company that moved to Kenmare less than a year ago, has laid off nearly all of its employees and has closed the doors to its business.

Only a skeleton crew of six employees will remain at Portal Service Co., until all assets can be gathered.

Company CEO Mike Stophlet said Portal Service has been struggling financially in recent months.

“We’re in the middle of working with our investment group and struggling with the banks on funding without a resolution,” Stophlet said. “So, our direction is to dissolve our assets.”

In July, Stophlet told The Kenmare News that moving to Kenmare was necessary in order to grow the company and that Kenmare offered the ammenities to accommodate an expanding work force.

“To grow the company, it would need an influx of capital to make a reality of the next level,” Stophlet said in his July interview. “Additionally, being based in Kenmare will allow us the ability and platform to grow successfully in the Bakken and the North Dakota market.”

The original Portal Service Co., located in Lignite, was purchased from Chad and Doug Johnson by a private equity group in 2011.

The company moved into the former Gooseneck Implement building on U.S. Highway 52 in December 2013.

Portal Service was said to be the exclusive Bakken distributor of the HG Curved Walking Beam oil pump.

In addition, the company offered a number of services including completion and production, environmental services and transportation.

The Portal Service website states “With over five decades of experience on which to draw, Portal Service Company continues to build on a rock-solid foundation of serving our customers and community by providing stellar customer service — regardless of how big or small the job.”

It remains unclear if or how this shut down will impact oil production in the Kenmare region.

Tessa Sandstrom, the communications manager with the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said she only learned of the fate of Portal Service on Nov. 12 and because it wasn’t a member of the Petroleum Council, she doesn’t know how the layoffs will impact other oil-related businesses in the area.

“From an industry standpoint, the demand for quality workers remains very high and I would assume those individuals would be sought after for their skills and experience,” she said. “There’s something like two to three jobs for every unemployed person in the state at this time.”

Sandstrom added that North Dakota Job Service and Command Center are great resources for “match-making” jobs related to the oil industry.

Randall Simmons worked in the Portal Service office in Kenmare the past four months. He, like most of his colleagues, lost their jobs on Oct. 25.

“We were all laid off at the same time,” Simmons said. “And that same week, I think they brought in some buyers.”

He said the company didn’t tell the employees ahead of time that layoffs would occur, however, he understood there were indications that might lead to something as drastic as the entire workforce losing their jobs.

Simmons said he acted as a human resources liaison with an accounting firm in Denver that did the bookkeeping for Portal Service.

He would sometimes take calls from disgruntled companies doing business with Portal Service that they weren’t getting paid.

“Yes, it was a surprise,” Simmons said about the mass layoffs. “But I had heard talk of people not receiving their payments.”

He said the only thing he could do is refer those callers to the accounting firm in Denver.

Otherwise, Simmons said to the best of his knowledge all employees did receive their final paychecks.

 Simmons started his new job  with Portal Service in July and said that during his four-month stay there were generally 30 people working for the company with a maximum of about 40.

“Yup, I’ll be looking for a job,” Simmons said... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!