Programs help Muskogee develop
(Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of stories looking at Muskogee Metalworks, its growth and its impact on the Atmore economy.)
By Paul Keane
While growth is coming to Muskogee Metalworks, the potential for explosive growth is looming on the horizon. And the reason is because the company has positioned itself nearly perfectly for that explosion.
Muskogee Metalworks, part of Poach Creek Enterprises, is nearing completion of moving into the old Vanity Fair building. General Manager Mal McGhee said plans are to begin moving equipment and personnel from the old building to the new one by the end of January, with departments moving as they complete current orders and can make the transfer.
McGhee said the additional space is greatly needed, as a number of potential contracts are being negotiated.
"We have contracts with Siemens-Westinghouse, Georgia Power for boilers and containers with Eglin Air Force Base," McGhee said. "That's in addition to the contracts with have PEO-STRI to handle the modification kits for their flight and tank simulators."
In addition, contacts have been made between Muskogee and companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Gulf Stream and Locheed Martin. While many of those center around Department of Defense contracts – with Muskogee serving as a subcontractor – there are also negotiations with commercial businesses to produce consumer products.
The hub of the business could come from defense contracts, though, simply because of some government programs Muskogee has taken advantage of in recent years.
Muskogee is part of the HUB Zone and is an 8(a) certified business with the Small Business Administration. In addition, the company is part of the Indian Incentive Program that entices defense contractors to do business with the Atmore company.
And while those programs designate businesses as minority or disadvantaged businesses, Muskogee Metalworks has used the programs to do anything but become disadvantaged.
"The Buy Indian Program is what has attracted Boeing, Locheed-Martin and other companies like that to us," McGhee said. "Those contractors have set goals to do business with minority, Native American and disadvantaged businesses, and many of them have not been meeting those goals in the past.
"Now the Department of Defense is putting some teeth in those regulations, and companies are looking to do business with companies that will help them meet those goals. They know that if they don't meet their goals, then it could affect their future Department of Defense contracts, so they want to do business with us so they can meet those goals."
In addition, the federal government has set aside a "pool" of money for the program. Any defense contractor utilizing a qualified "disadvantaged" business can receive up to 5 percent of the contract to that company back as a "rebate." The money comes from the government pool, and McGhee said there is plenty of unused money in that fund for contractors to utilize.
Another key component is the 8(a) designation by the SBA. That allows contractors to cut through the government red tape much quicker in regards to bidding processes for subcontractors, meaning companies such as Muskogee Metalworks can produce a product quicker.
"With the 8(a) program, the bidding process is not in place," McGhee said. "What happens is that companies approved through the SBA can have government contracts awarded to them without having to go through the normal bidding process.
"In most instances, a contractor can simply call us up and ask if we can fill the order. If we can fill it, and the price is right, then they place the order. It makes things run smoother for the contractor because they can conduct business in a traditional sense without the bidding process.
"And currently, we are the only Native American tribe involved in a joint venture that is approved by SBA, so we feel good about our chances of getting future business."
Muskogee Metalworks is also starting to participate in the IMTAPP Program. In that program, the Air Force or other branch of the military can select companies to find "niches" that can be filled.
"What happens with that program is that the Air Force looks at a company like us and tries to find out what we do and where it will fit into what they need," McGhee said. "I feel that could be very lucrative for our company in the years to come, which will help us grow and expand here in this area."
(Next: What the growth means to Atmore in the way of jobs and future business for the area)