The history of Muskogee Technology
Ever see the TV show “How it’s Made”? The documentary-style show takes you through the process of how everyday items, and some unique ones, are manufactured. That is kind of how each day plays out at Muskogee Technology (MT) in Atmore.
And now you will learn just “how MT was made.” This is part one of a two-part series on the history of Muskogee Technology.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Once the Tribe regained federal recognition, it began to look at ways to further prosper as a Tribe and give back to its neighbors in Alabama. From 1984 to 1988, the Tribe started considering economic development.
In 1988, the Tribe bought a metal stamping company, Strader Manufacturing in Milton, Fla., gaining 51 percent of the company. Once established, the Tribe created Creek Indian Enterprises (CIE) to oversee diversification for the Tribe. When CIE began to focus on economic development, it added “Development Authority” to its name, and thus became CIEDA.
Strader Manufacturing became a subsidiary of CIEDA in 1989, but maintained complete autonomy. It was then that the Tribe realized how much potential the Milton company had and bought out the remaining investors, assuming 100 percent ownership.
Today, CIEDA manages seven different enterprises owned by the Tribe.
“The reason we decided to pursue economic development was to offer our people job opportunities, local places to work, creating prosperity within our Tribal community and give back to the community as a whole,” CIEDA President and CEO James T. Martin said.
GAINING MOMENTUM INTO THE AEROSPACE INDUSTRY
Throughout the early 1990s, Strader Manufacturing continued to learn and grow in the aerospace industry. With the growth came a name change to Muskogee Metalworks. In 1992, Tribal Member Mal McGhee, who had been on the Strader board of directors, became the first employee and general manager at the new Muskogee Metalworks.
After initial adjustments and hard work, CIE decided in April 1993 to move the company to Atmore so they could employ more of their people. And through all the growth and learning curves, Muskogee Metalworks added capabilities and rebranded into present-day Muskogee Technology, which employs about 70 full-time workers.
McGhee totally transformed the company once it moved, gradually adding services, such as woodworking, assembly, kitting, metal fabrication, aircraft sheetmetal and much more. These processes led to the company obtaining additional government and defense contracts.
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., became Muskogee Metalworks’ biggest contracting customer in the mid- to late ’90s. That relationship and others guided the company to become diversified in its ability to manage various projects and services and produce quality products.
“Muskogee Technology’s biggest strengths are diversification quality work,” McGhee said.
PERSEVERANCE AND DIVERSITY
McGhee knew Muskogee Metalworks was special and that growth was inevitable with each new contract the company took on. He sought out and researched numerous available minority business development programs in an effort to attract even larger companies.
Because Muskogee Metalworks is owned by a federally recognized Indian Tribe, it is classified as a minority-owned business as well as a small, disadvantaged business and is eligible for many programs.
However, some of Muskogee Metalworks’ biggest contracts have come through using assistance programs, such as the 8(a) program from the Small Business Administration in 1999. With 8(a), participants are guided step by step and learn how to operate a successful business and gain a foothold in government contracting.
Up until then, 90 percent of all Muskogee Metalworks’ capital investments were done from the Tribe’s cash flow, with no assistance from outside lenders.
“The Tribe’s financial backing enabled us to accomplish our goals quicker,” McGhee said.
BUILDING LASTING RELATIONSHIPS AND GROWTH
As they were building relationships through effective use of these programs, Muskogee Metalworks worked extensively with government contracts. Warner Robins AFB, Ga., contracted with Muskogee Metalworks to supply the U.S. Air Force with equipment it needed. In 2001, the company partnered with Manufacturing Technology Inc. (MTI) in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to work on a $47 million government electrical contract. And upon seizing that opportunity, in 2002, Muskogee Metalworks was selected to participate in the 8(a) mentor-protégé program with MTI.
This is a big deal for minority companies. The mentor-protégé program is a nine-year program that instills procedures and manufacturing processes to match the mentor company’s specific needs, enhance capabilities and enable the protégé to compete for larger, more complex prime contract and subcontract awards.
Through commitment and hard work, Muskogee Metalworks won the prestigious Nunn/Perry Award, the highest honor given by the Department of Defense in the mentor protégé program.
After that accomplishment, Muskogee Metalworks then was taken under The Boeing Co.’s wing in the mentor-protégé program in 2006. They were taught Boeing’s specifications and produced everything Boeing asked for skillfully and quickly, often exceeding in early delivery of products.
Learning these traits facilitates growth. And grow they did.
With the guidance they received, Muskogee Metalworks developed from being a metal-stamping, low-volume company into a fully capable multi-product company.
Because the company was growing at a rapid pace, it needed extra space to accommodate the amount of work it had taken on. In April 2003, Muskogee Metalworks moved into a new facility in Atmore, taking ownership of the building that once was a Vanity Fair manufacturing plant.
“That was definitely a goal we had — to bring more jobs to the Tribe and to Southwest Alabama as a whole,” McGhee said. “This was possible because of our dedicated employees. They deserve all the credit for making this company what it is today.”
Look for part 2 of Muskogee Technology’s history next month.