Grant has opened doors to international business for KT Plastics
Jim Willingham spoke loudly to project his voice over the roar of machinery on the busy manufacturing floor of KT Plastics Inc., located in the tiny Bryan County community of Calera just outside of Durant.
Automated machining equipment fabricated plastic into industrial parts as Willingham, KT Plastics general manager, discussed new markets the manufacturer expanded into in the wake of federal-state grant funding received through the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).
“The grant has opened doors to international business for us,” Willingham said. “We are shipping parts to Singapore, we’ve sent parts to Australia, Ireland and the European Union. It has increased our worldwide presence, if you will.”
KT Plastics employs 21 people in a 38,000 square-foot plant, fabricating a wide variety of molded industrial parts such as bearings, bushings, seals used by the oil and gas and petrochemical industries. It also produces products for waste and recycling customers, air compressors, transportation, semiconductor, heavy equipment and other markets.
Grant funding KT Plastics received was part of an innovative project by OCAST to help oil and natural gas supply chain companies across 38 Oklahoma counties diversify and expand their markets. The counties were those hit hardest by the energy price decline in 2016.
OCAST received $1 million from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and matched it with $530,000 in state funds to support its Diversify Oklahoma initiative. Small manufacturers receive an average of $75,000 each to help them purchase equipment, enhance their Internet presence and train employees.
In the case of KT Plastics, the EDA funding helped the company acquire a 3D printer, receive training on computer-aided design software known as SolidWorks and redesign its Internet site.
“We have seen a pickup in our Internet contacts and sales through that new website,” Willingham said. “That’s been a tremendous asset to us.”
For Tulsa-based Preston-Eastin, a manufacturer of customer positioning equipment, the EDA grant allowed it to diversify into aerospace and Department of Defense projects, said Robert Nock, president and CEO.
Nock stood on the Preston-Eastin production floor and pointed out a large, round turntable built for the nuclear power industry that is capable of holding and positioning equipment weighing up to 400,000 pounds.
“We were primarily an oil and gas-based business,” Nock said. “The grant allowed us to get out into very different industries, such as this large turntable for the nuclear power industry. That’s the type of equipment this EDA grant has allowed us to build. A turntable of this magnitude is several hundred thousand dollars, and this is the fifth turntable that we’ve built for that customer.”
Nock pointed across the production floor to a lengthy series of metal tracks that Preston-Eastin workers were fabricating.
“That is a series of tracks that allows robots to stand and paint a stealth technology for the Department of Defense,” he said. “We, we have a very diverse customer base. Whether nuclear power, whether it’s construction industry, defense contractors, the EDA grant has allowed us to diversify into all those types of businesses. We were not doing those type of businesses before the EDA grant.”
The Preston-Eastin website also was redesigned through the EDA grant, which has allowed it to reach more potential customers because of better search engine optimization, Nock said.
EDA grant funding had a similar impact on another Durant area manufacturer, AERO Component Repair, LLC.
Founded 15 years ago by William Moskwa after a long career as an airframe and power plant mechanic for the airline industry, AERO Component Repair employs 10 people and provides turbine and turboprop component repair and overhaul services for the aviation and industrial turbine markets.
“We’ve used the EDA grant to improve our company’s presence on the Internet by getting a complete redesign of our website,” Moskwa said. “Then we used some of the money to get certified under ISO-9001. A combination of those two things allowed us to reach more customers across the world.”
AERO Component Repair expanded into new turbine component repair markets in Romania, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Mexico.
“The EDA grant has allowed us to reach more parts of the world and develop new customer relationships, as well as develop new applications and reinforce some that we are currently doing” Moskwa said.
The company also acquired a vacuum furnace for its repair services, as well as a 3D printer it uses to produce packaging materials for long-distance shipping. Grant funding enabled the company to train employees to operate the SolidWorks design software.
“We are pleased to see these Oklahoma small manufacturers reaching new customers across the globe as a result of the EDA investment,” said Michael Carolina, OCAST executive director. “That is bringing new revenues into our state and helping them diversify their operations. It’s the type of success that we hope to replicate across all 38 counties included in this project.”