A small, minority-owned business in rural southwest Alabama is producing big solutions for some of the state’s largest companies.
Muskogee Technology (MT) in Atmore manufactures goods and provides services for businesses in aerospace, industrial and agricultural industries. MT President and CEO Westly Woodruff said industry leaders such as Airbus, Boeing, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, GKN Aerospace, Alabama Power, SIEMENS, Hiller Companies and Sikorsky trust MT to deliver solutions for complex problems.
“We tackle big problems, thus empowering our strategic partners to maintain focus on their core competencies,” Woodruff said. “Our team members work diligently to ensure orders are produced to the highest quality standards, on time, and on budget.”
MT is part of the Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA), the economic-development arm of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. It was founded in Florida during the 1980s as Strader Manufacturing. CIEDA purchased it in 1989, relocated it to Atmore in 1993 and later renamed it to reflect the company’s business initiatives. In 2003, the company moved into a new facility in Atmore, taking ownership of a building that once was a Vanity Fair manufacturing plant.
“There’s a lot of pride that comes with the building,” Woodruff said. “We repurposed a building that’s been a part of the community for a very long time. You can see when you pull up that we’re surrounded by residential houses, yet I’m not aware of a single complaint that we’ve received from a local resident, and we’re a manufacturing shop. It’s a testament to the community support.”
Woodruff, who became president and CEO of MT in 2017, said the company’s growth is driven by the 81 team members he calls his family.
“What I tell folks when they come here to interview with us is, ‘We change lives,'” Woodruff said. “‘We’re going to give you an opportunity that nobody else is going to give you.’ The tribe is offering employment opportunities to change these people’s lives that might not otherwise have a similar opportunity without relocation. Our team members understand that we’re a part of the fabric of this community and we take a lot of pride in that.”
That team pride was lifted even higher in April when MT responded to the nation’s desperate need for personal protective equipment (PPE) at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Woodruff said his team modified factory equipment to produce custom isolation gowns for local hospitals and healthcare establishments.
“It has been motivating to see the morale and patriotism at MT soar as our agility to pivot into the manufacturing of nonmedical personal protective equipment takes shape,” Woodruff said. “We knew we wanted to help the COVID-19 efforts, so we just found a starting point within our core competencies. If our energy and efforts save a single life, it has been worth it all.”
Cody Williamson, CIEDA’s president and CEO, echoed those sentiments during an MT employee appreciation event in June.
“MT will not be remembered 20 years from now for its financial performance during this time period but it will be forever remembered for how it pivoted its resources and staff to support the communities’ needs for nonmedical PPE.”
Looking forward, Woodruff said he wants MT to pursue more opportunities in the agricultural industry.
“We’ve been very successful being agile as a company,” Woodruff said. “Three years ago we were not in the agricultural sector at all. Now it’s our second-highest performing service. That’s a pivot that’s happened in the last two years. My focus now is figuring out how we expand that but also how do we build more brand capital in that multi-billion-dollar market sector? I think we have just scratched the surface when it comes to the agricultural and recreational opportunities.”
However, Woodruff cautions MT’s growth will be purposeful and with measure.
“For us as a small company, we need to do that strategically,” Woodruff said. “One of the downsides to technology is it evolves so fast. If you’re the first one to go out there and buy it, 12 months later it’s obsolete equipment. I do not want to put MT in that conversation. It takes patience.”