Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Helping Small Manufacturers Grow

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Helping Small Manufacturers Grow

Article excerpt

As NATO authorized air strikes Tuesday against Kosovo, two small companies in northeastern Oklahoma stepped up their production efforts.

They build seemingly mundane, yet critical parts for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a key U.S. Air Force jet that could be used under North American Treaty Organization directives in Yugoslavia. The F-16 also is active in holding down fighting in neighboring Bosnia and enforcing the no-fly zone around Iraq.

Padget Machining of Tulsa and Pride Plating of Grove are Air Force contractors, building underwing suspension tubes and shipping them to Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The tubes, no longer supplied by the F-16's manufacturer, are used for radar sensors that warn pilots of approaching danger. The two Oklahoma companies owe the business to a little-known component of Francis Tuttle Vocational-Technical Center of Oklahoma City -- Van Sat -- that has helped bring the manufacturing of 33 parts and components into Oklahoma. "When the Air Force realized that they were about to have a problem with the radar sensor tube, they contacted Lockheed Martin about making the part," said Mark Morris, Van Sat director. "Lockheed said it would take two years and several thousands of dollars to put that part into production. "People at Hill called us and we found the Oklahoma companies that could do it. They (Padget Machining and Pride Plating) said they could do it in 90 days for about one-fourth what Lockheed would charge." So the two companies went to work developing a bid, then proved to the Air Force they could meet specifications and were qualified to produce what they bid. That was completed in December. The contract was awarded almost immediately. Parts already have started flowing to Hill Air Force Base, Morris said. The Air Force is paying $180,000 for the 90-day contract, which can be stretched out to meet future needs. It's not known what the total contract is worth, because the number of left and right tube sets to be delivered was not specified. No per-set cost was mentioned, but the part is expensive because of the unusual way the metal has to be twisted and turned to fit onto the wing. It also has a highly polished, anonidized covering inside. An exotic material makes up the tube. Padget and Pride are but two of the 280 small Oklahoma companies that make up the Van Sat network that's working to bring more business to Oklahoma companies. "That's what we trying to do," said Morris. "Improve the economy of this state by helping the small manufacturer." Contracts on these parts have been worth $3.5 million to Oklahoma companies, he said. Van Sat is an acronym of "value-added network, satellite based," the name of an agency created by the Department of Defense in 1990 to speed the adoption of electronic commerce in its dealings. …

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