Muskogee Metalworks poised for growth

Published 7:36 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2002

By Staff
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of stories looking at the expansion of Muskogee Metalworks and the potential of the company for future growth in Atmore.
By Paul Keane
To say Muskogee Metalworks has come a long way from being just a company that makes pipe hangers for ships would be a gross understatement.
The local company – owned and operated by the Poarch Creek Indians – has expanded from the pipe hanger business to the flight and tank simulator industry and to making special containers for missiles. The company also is in the running for multiple contracts with Department of Defense contractors and commercial industries.
"We've got fishing lines out all over the place," said Mal McGhee, general manager for Muskogee Metalworks. "If we can just two or three of those to bite, then we could really take off."
Not that the facility hasn't already begun to take off without those potential contracts. A $47 million contract with STRICOM (now called PEO-STRI) to provide various cables, kits and parts for flight and tank simulators is beginning to come to fruition. The company is also on schedule to move into its new facility – the former Vanity Fair building – by the end of January.
For PEO-STRI, the plant manufactures "kits" for flight and tank simulators to be modified. The original contract for $47 million has been modified to allow for other products to be developed and manufactured here in Atmore. The modifications came about after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when the focus was shifted away from simulation due to a change in national defense strategies.
McGhee said the first delivery of cables for simulators for the Army was recently completed, and that other projects are being developed.
"We manufacture the hand grips for the simulators, and we put together kits to modify simulators," he said. "Many of the M1 Simulators are having to be changed and modified to the M1/A1 Simulators.
"That requires changing the panels and the hardware, and we put together 'kits' that include all the cables, hand grips, wiring, tape and instructors for those modifications. All an installer has to do is open the box, follow the directions and make the modifications right then and there.
"In the future, we will be handling some of the installations ourselves, which is another area where we can expand our business."
The simulators themselves are about the size of a small mobile home and can be transported anywhere around the world in order to train pilots and tank drivers. When new weapons are added into the world's military mix, further modifications must be made to the simulators.
"It keeps pilots and tank drivers fresh," McGhee said. "They put on goggles and basically go through a virtual reality scenario that helps train them for combat."
Muskogee Metalworks also handles building missile containers for various Air Force bases, including Eglin Air Force Base. These containers carry missiles to the planes, where they are loaded and then used in combat.
The company is also beginning to see development of contacts and potential business with companies such as Locheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Gulf Stream.
In addition, Muskogee Metalworks produces "step out" and "table out" products that are popular with RV and camper users. The "step out" product is a folding step stool that provides sturdy support and is unlikely to tip over while the "table out" provides a sturdy, folding table that can be used for meals and other activities while camping.
McGhee said his company is also negotiating to develop and produce a special "top" for gas grills that will provide even heating and grease runoff to go somewhere other than on the fire.
"If we can develop and market that, then we could have a big seller that would create a lot of business for us," McGhee said.
It all adds up to an impressive track record for a company poised to expand in the near future.
(Next: What makes Muskogee Metalworks so attractive to other industries?)

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