Blumenthal In The News
»Alive and Well: Oklahoma companies are thriving (May 6th, 2011 - 02:32 PM)

By Debbie Blossom (Business Writer, Published: The Oklahoman; Date: Feb 27, 2008; Section: Business; Page: 2B)

This country’s manufacturers are one of several industries especially vulnerable to a recession, according to a recent survey from global outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Yet Oklahoma is somewhat insulated from other parts of the country that have suffered from more job losses and company downsizings. And two industries — energy and aerospace — are showing solid growth, said the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, the Tulsa based industry trade group.

“Manufacturers still seem somewhat optimistic, but certainly are more guarded about the near future than they were, say, nine months or a year ago,” spokesman Joe Epperley said.

Energy companies and those that manufacture and supply oil-field equipment are booming, Epperley said. And smaller firms with little or no ties to the energy sector are seeing record sales, adding employees and expanding operations.

“We are very fortunate here in Oklahoma,” said Ron Holmes, an extension agent with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance. “We are currently enjoying a lot of strong growth in manufacturing; it’s been contrary to the national circumstance.”

And today the lament is not simply for more business but instead for more skilled workers to power production facilities, Holmes said.

Business is bubbling at Kleen Products, which makes and sells three formulas of hand cleaners and other cleaning products. “Our business has just been exceptional,” said Ken Newman, Kleen’s president. “We don’t understand all the hoopla over recession.”

Kleen does include oil-field supply companies in its customer base, but “automotive is our biggest area,” Newman said, making up almost 44 percent of the company’s business. Industrial firms are also big buyers of Kleen’s products, and customers are in Canada and now Albania, which is helping the company expand its international market, he added.

“The last five years have been our biggest growth spurt, because we have expanded beyond our five-state area,” he said, and because the company has diversified its product offerings. A recession could affect Kleen, he said, but not drastically. “I just don’t see a slowdown for us,” he said.

Pelco Products in Edmond also has grown beyond producing the traffic signal hardware it has become so well known for. The company has just completed its third year with Pelco Structural, a Claremore-based venture that makes steel poles for the utility industry. “We started this as a brand new business in 2005, and we now have 104 employees and two shifts,” said Pelco spokesman and consultant Gordon Andersen.

“Our growth has been steady and our sales level the past two years, and we think it’s up a little bit this year. We’re not concerned about a recession because of the kind of business we’re in.” Pelco’s products, which include an ornamental and decorative lighting division, don’t rely on consumer demand.

“We deal with city, county and state governments,” he said, supplying traffic signal parts to road, bridge and highway projects. When the country experiences economic dips, Andersen said, government at all levels often initiates those building projects to help stimulate the economy.

“We don’t see the same cyclical dips as other industries,” he said. Saving money amid rising costs has increased business at Blumenthal Manufacturing, an Oklahoma City company that remanufactures engines to current specifications.

“It’s easier for vehicle owners to replace a transmission than to take on the cost and burden of a new vehicle,” said Harry Brown, the company’s marketing manager. Blumenthal has increased its staff between 25 percent and 30 percent in the last three years to service contracts with the Oklahoma City Fire Department, Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department.

A contract with UPS in seven states and U-Haul nationwide has kept the company’s staff busy, Brown said. “When money gets tight, it’s easier to repair,” he said. Manufacturing companies are prospering because Oklahoma diversified its economy into more stable industries after so many years leaning on the oil business to keep it running, Holmes said.

“And they did it very successfully,” he said. “Manufacturing in Oklahoma is very much alive and well and going.”

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