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Playing with the big boys

By By Connie Nowlin
When Muskogee Metalworks moved into the old Vanity Fair building almost a year ago, it increased the capacity of the company dramatically.
Since that time the company, which is owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, had gone after and landed several new jobs in support of the armed forces.
Some of the work is actually manufacturing the parts in Atmore, other jobs call for building kits that update current equipment, making it better suited for warfare in the desert.
For example, the company is now building floor panels for Israeli troop carrier vehicles.
Part of the expansion was because of the war going on against Iraq, but other things have come into play as well.
According to Mal McGhee, general manager of the enterprise, several other factors have influenced the company's growth.
It has put in place a government approved accounting system so that bids may be tracked and placed more easily and requirements of the government accountants met.
It is a Native American owned business, although the employees are a mix of tribal members and those outside the tribe. Also in place is an inventory control and tracking system so that inventory and equipment that actually belong to the U.S. government remain secure.
Some of the new contacts are for training and simulation equipment, such as the emergency power generation system for Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia and updates for the C-17 and C-5 aircraft ground support systems.
"I think this is work that would have been done anyway," McGhee said, "But as the world environment changes the scope of the work has increased. Some of this indirectly supports the troops."
The company has added several state-of-the-art machines that do all manner of things from bend pipe to use water jets to precision cut metal. The machines are CNC – computer numerically controlled – rather than the old manual way of doing things.
Because of the new equipment and new work, there will have to be new employees.
In the past two months the company has hired eight new employees, and soon they will need more production workers. McGhee hopes that by the end of 2004, the company will employ 40 to 50 people.
Besides the CNC mill, McGhee expects expansion in the kit assembly area, in which parts from different suppliers are put together to create a whole kit to modify equipment or simulators. The parts of the kit may come from as far away as England. Other growth areas are expected to be in cable manufacture, kiting and maintenance.
"This is slow, steady growth," McGhee said. "We are picking up equipment, people and government contracts."
"We are going to have to start working together as a community to get this town headed back into positive territory."
One of the goals of the company is to create jobs for the community, and McGhee said it wants to create good jobs with high pay and benefits.
In the meantime, Muskogee Metalworks has not lost sight of its roots.
It still does some welding and repair work for members of the community, and is using the water jets precision cutters to create tile designs of the Poarch Creek logo for floors in the tribe's gaming establishments. It is also making clear-top tables for the counting room of one of the gaming establishments.
With jobs as diverse as repair of a truck box to building a box to hold the tail section of the mother of all bombs, Muskogee Metalworks is staying on an even growth keel to build the community and its business.