ROCKLAND, Maine — SteelPro Inc., a longtime Rockland manufacturer, has been purchased by its 35 employees.

The company was sold for an undisclosed price at the end of December through an employee stock option plan, according to former owner Christopher Beebe. Beebe will stay on as chairman of the board.

Beebe became co-owner of the company in 1983 when he and Fred Carey bought the business located off Front Street. Beebe then purchased Carey’s share of the company in 2000.

Beebe said he was ready to get out of running the company but did not want to sell the business to an out-of-state investment group that might not have the employees’ or community’s best interest as the top priority.

“This is a nice way to keep the company here in Rockland,” he said.

SteelPro is a metal fabricator, building stainless steel tanks used in a variety of industries such as pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical. Most of the employees are welders, but there also are some engineers who work at the facility, Beebe said.

The sale to the employees keeps the company and its jobs local but also will provide the employees a nice retirement income when they are vested and reach the age of 62, he said.

Beebe said there are not many people in Maine with the capital to purchase such a business and that the employee purchase has advantages. He said now that the firm is owned by the employees, the business will be exempt from paying state and federal income taxes.

Four employees make up the management team for SteelPro. The new president is Steve Ladd, who has worked there since being hired as a mechanical engineer nearly 19 years ago.

Ladd said employees are excited about the sale. He said that the crew is a veteran one with many of the employees having been with SteelPro for 15 to 20 years.

“We have a very dedicated workforce,” Ladd said.

The idea for the transfer of ownership to the employees came from Beebe, Ladd said.

The other members of the management team are Craig Wells who is vice president and chief operating officer, Jeanne Rimm who is vice president and chief financial officer, and Leon Smith who is manufacturing supervisor.

SteelPro was incorporated in 1978 and started as a metal fabricator for SeaPro, which processed waste fish into fish meal for companies such as pet food producers. Seapro closed in 1988.

Wells said that business owners often are portrayed in a bad light and not caring about their employees but in this instance, Beebe had the interest of workers in mind.

“This was a win-win situation,” Wells said.