National Manufacturing Day was an observance Friday in factories across the country, but in Oklahoma City it was more of an actual celebration.
It wasn't just the green, white and black balloons, the snacks, brunch items and fine coffees, and the tour groups donning bright green hard hats and goggles for the occasion at Malarkey Roofing Products.
It was the state statistics, not to mention Malarkey's own success story.
Not only has Oklahoma one of the nation's lowest unemployment rates for several quarters as the national struggles to shake off the recession — and the energy business booms again in the oil patch.
“Oklahoma has led the nation with the most rapidly growing manufacturing growth rate — a growth rate of 6.7 percent,” Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said, pointing out that manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of the state's current economic output.
Malarkey CEO Jim Fagan had good things to say about state government, especially the Commerce Department's Quality Jobs Program, which provides incentives in exchange for job creation and capital investment. Malarkey, based in Portland, Ore., has been making roofing shingles here for just more than a year.
Oklahoma, he said, “allowed us to invest heavily into the state with barriers that are unbelievably easy to overcome. We started the process in July (2012), we got our building permit and by August we were actually manufacturing product.”
Fagan joked that he was bad at estimating the advances Malarkey would make in the five-year plan he submitted to participate in Quality Jobs. He introduced James Johnson, site location manager for the Commerce Department, as the first person he did business with here after commercial property broker Gerald L. Gamble guided Malarkey to the shuttered aluminum can plant that Malarkey spent $40 million retrofitting into a shingle factory.
“A couple of things I promised James: I told him we would have 50 employees, and today we have 65 — not very good at that. I projected $2.8 million in wages for the year, and we'll probably be at $4.2 million in wages — not very good at that. I told him I would invest $40 million by the third year, and we're well over $40 million today,” Fagan said.
And Malarkey plans to start making Class 4 roofing materials — especially storm-resistant shingles — by mid-October, and another new line in March, he said. Malarkey saw $80 million in sales its first year and is on track to see $250 million in sales annually by the third year, he said.