Ed Newell says hard work and a strong work ethic helped his wood products business grow since it opened in 1996.
Newell Wood Products started with four employees and $480,000 in sales, Newell said. The business now has 14 employees and posted $2 million in sales over the past year. He said he relies on committed employees.
“It’s hard work. It’s physical labor,” Newell said.
It’s also the type of work that could help drive Muskogee’s growth, a team of industrial site selection experts say.
Muskogee has a strong appeal for manufacturing and distribution centers, said representatives of Site Selection Group. The Dallas-based business conducted a competitive positioning analysis for the Muskogee City-County Port Authority last summer and recently presented their findings to the Authority.
Site Selection Group ranked Muskogee 63rd out of 940 industrial markets across the United States on such benchmarks as labor availability, labor cost and logistics.
However, Site Selection Group Senior Vice President David V. Brandon said Muskogee’s comparatively small population inhibits its ability to attract large industries. He said the 940 markets ranged in size from New York and Los Angeles to areas with populations between 40,000 and 100,000.
“It’s not large enough to attract a Toyota plant or a Ford plant,” Brandon said.
Muskogee would be better positioned to attract a manufacturing plant hiring 200 to 250 or a distribution center hiring 50 to 100, he said.
Muskogee earns high marks
Researchers ranked Muskogee against eight regional markets — Sherman-Denison, Texas; Fayetteville, Little Rock and Fort Smith, Ark., as well as Tulsa, Bartlesville, Ponca City and Durant — on their strengths and weaknesses for attracting manufacturing, distribution or call centers.
Port Director Scott Robinson said the group’s study validates what many in Muskogee already are doing.
“We’ve always known we were strong in manufacturing,” Robinson said. “But we were really surprised we were ahead of all other markets for distribution centers.
Muskogee ranked first of the nine markets in potential for a distribution center and third out of nine in potential for a manufacturing project. Fort Smith and Ponca City scored better for manufacturing project potential. Muskogee did not fare as well in potential for a call center or back office type industry — ranking fifth out of nine markets.
Researchers scored the nine markets in three major categories:
• 50 percent for labor availability — age and income demographics, education level, major industry presence and supplemental labor sources.
• 30 percent for labor cost — recommended ages for target occupations, cost of living, median household income and per capita income.
• 20 percent for business environment — state and local tax burden, workers compensation, construction cost index, average state electric rates and unemployment insurance.
A score of 100 is considered average.
Muskogee posted an overall score of 121 in desirability for a distribution center, the study indicated. Its strongest areas were in labor cost, a 142 score, and business environment, with a 128 score. Labor availability was slightly below average, with a 97.7 score.
According to a PowerPoint presentation by the group, industries seeking potential distribution center sites look mostly at logistics, labor availability and labor costs, in that order. Top site selection drivers for manufacturing plants are labor availability, labor cost and logistics.