WHY MANUFACTURING MATTERS
Okmulgee County has a large manufacturing base for a community of our size, with 9 value-added manufacturers. Five of those manufacturers ship their products globally and two are dominant leaders in their industry. Manufacturers are important to communities for various reasons. They are often among the largest employers, and because of their need for educated, skilled workers, they typically pay better salaries. Their investments in land, buildings and equipment help support public schools, the county health department and county government, through ad valorem taxes. Manufacturing is a key component of a modern society, enabling people to build the goods and products they need to eat, live, entertain and protect themselves. The business of making things with utility and adding value to raw materials is the essence of manufacturing. In fact, if you look around you, nearly everything is manufactured. Without manufacturing, the modern conveniences we enjoy would not exist.
Who are the major manufacturers who have chosen to locate their business in Okmulgee County?
Covington Aircraft is a global leader in jet engine overhaul and repair. They specialize in Pratt & Whitney R-985 and R-1340 radial engines and PT6A turbine engines.In addition to engine overhaul and repair work, it performs engine installations, operates engine testing facilities and carries a large inventory of replacement engines and parts. The company also ships engines and parts throughout the world.
Liberty Partners specializes in aircraft modifications, offering engineering, certification, design and fabrication services. Since 2003, it has operated out of its Okmulgee facility where it continues to provide solutions to private, commercial, and government operations.
M & M Machining is a supplier to the aerospace, defense, and energy industries. ensuring the highest quality and on-time delivery of their complex components.
CP Kelco is the world’s largest producer of food grade xanthan gum and gellan gum.
PACCAR Winch Okmulgee manufactures Braden Winch, hoist and drive products.
PolyVision is the world’s largest manufacturer of CeramicSteel surfaces for whiteboards, chalkboards and architectural applications.
Pump & Motor Works is a leading supplier of new and remanufactured rotating equipment. They have the largest inventory of large electric motors and industrial pumps in the world.
Thompson Pump was founded in 1919; we believe that Thompson Pump is Okmulgee’s oldest manufacturer still in operation. The Thompson family invented the first submersible oil field pump and it is still an industry standard around the world.
Anchor Glass is one of the leading manufacturers of glass containers in North America.
Some features that make Okmulgee particularly attractive to manufacturers include:
Lots of industrial land available
Excellent access to transportation modes for exporting the goods across the US or internationally
Industrial quantities of water at very attractive rates
OSUIT and GCTC for workforce training
Proximity to Tulsa Metro area
The general consensus on the biggest issue for manufacturers is workforce. The skills gap for young workers’ lack of proficiency in traditional skills is a huge problem. Younger folks in the U.S. are not really targeting manufacturing as a career. That’s a challenge, just trying to make sure the younger generations are as good as the older generations at building things, because we’re such a handcrafted product oriented society. There is a saying “Modern-day manufacturing is not your grandfather’s manufacturing”. The stigma is that manufacturing jobs are dirty (that was your grandfather’s manufacturing job). Today, manufacturing is highly technology based and automated, safe, clean, and well paying.
The OADC recently conducted an Okmulgee County labor study of 21 major employers (including manufacturers). This study reports that over 42% of our skilled labor workforce commute into Okmulgee from 50 miles or more, from 23 surrounding counties. Most of those commuting into Okmulgee for work at our manufacturing plants are highly skilled and educated professionals, ranging from chemists to electrical engineers, reverse engineering specialists and exotic materials fabrication. What does this mean? It means that the jobs here are so good that people are willing to commute long distances. Those who are willing to obtain the education and skills would absolutely have the opportunity to be hired!
This is why the importance of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) is a major focus in education - from the elementary grades through high school. Okmulgee High School has been working closely with local manufacturers - involving their students as well as teachers - so that there is a better understanding and connection. A future article will cover some of those program components.
Our manufacturers will most always have a certain number of unskilled jobs available as well; they are willing to train those with good work ethics and willingness to learn, but a good secondary education performance, especially to focus on math, science, technology and engineering background, is super important. Those individuals that take the time to study and hone their math/science/technology skills - whether from a vocational or degree level - will always have opportunities for good paying work.
Okmulgee has a unique advantage for workforce development very few small cities in America enjoy. We have a technical university that can confer both bachelor's and associate degrees, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. Green Country Tech Center/CareerTech also helps to ensure that there will be a skilled workers pipeline of talent for local employers. Both work very closely with local industry on specific training and curriculum based upon their needs. Many OSUIT students are recruited for excellent jobs before they even graduate.
We are thankful for the companies who have chosen Okmulgee. The OADC team continues to invite and encourage other manufacturing/industrial companies to also “Choose Okmulgee”. Even in the midst of our current global COVID-19 situation, we are responding to industry RFPs from companies who are in the process of making decisions for the future.
About the Author
Deb Marshall is the Assistant Executive Director of Okmulgee Area Development Corp (OADC). She is a native of Kansas City MO. Deb spent nearly 20 years in community and economic development in the Tulsa metroplex and Tanzania East Africa. She loves using her superpowers of being a connector and a communicator to help Okmulgee thrive. Contact her at Deb@ChooseOkmulgee.com.