MARIETTA — A once nearly abandoned warehouse down the street from the Marietta cemetery has become the heart of a booming oil and natural gas operation.
Chickasaw Nation Industries Inc. is nearly complete with an overhaul of the former Siemens plant that will allow its Innovation One to build and repair pressure tanks, frac tanks and other equipment used in the oil fields throughout the region.
“I'm excited about the opportunities we have in front of us and the opportunity to grow,” CNI Chairman Neal McCaleb said.
The Chickasaw Nation bought the manufacturing plant in 2004 after Siemens announced plans to close its operations in the area.
Innovation One began its upgrade early this year and hopes to be fully operational by the end of August.
The facility had boasted one of the largest powdercoat dry-paint processes in the state. Innovation One is adding a blasted-paint system similar to what is used in automotive painting. The bay is large enough to handle a semitrailer or a frac tank.
The upgrade also includes three 10-ton cranes to move the large oil field equipment throughout the facility.
“By the investment of the Chickasaws through CNI, we have saved 60 jobs and are trying to expand on that,” McCaleb said.
McCaleb said the facility plans to add 80 to 100 employees over the next 14 months.
The 110,000-square-foot plant historically has manufactured baggage conveyors, catwalks, hand rails and other steel-based products. Innovation One still makes those products to support its airport and retail customers, but the company is working to add to its expertise.
“In the airport market and distribution center market, they all have systems that require catwalks, handrails, stairs, ladders. The products themselves are very comparable to the oil field market,” CNI CEO David Nimmo said. “The things we're looking at, they're all in our wheelhouse.”
CNI has been a federal contractor for more than 18 years. The company has about 1,700 employees nationwide, most of which are outside of Oklahoma.
The Chickasaw Nation sees its new oil field equipment effort as an opportunity to move its focus to business in the private sector and away from federal contracts.
“We're trying to build a base that's not dependent on federal contracts. We're not averse to that, but that market is shrinking,” McCaleb said. “Gov. (Bill) Anoatubby's vision has always been to move toward private enterprise.
“The oil industry seemed attractive to us. It is here, it's growing, it's not likely to shrink. We wanted to be in the midstream area.”
Innovation One's efforts also are designed to boost Bullett Energy Services, which the tribe bought in December.
Based in Velma, Bullet has 44 employees and 17 transport trucks to support its saltwater disposal business.
The two companies will focus on the Chickasaw's historical territory in southern Oklahoma, which also is home to the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province.
“Not only is it in the Chickasaw territory, but it's also where a lot of activity is going to take place,” said Joe Evans, CNI's commercial business development officer.
CNI and Innovation One hope to use the expanded Marietta facility to promote what they call “rural sourcing.”
“Instead of having to outsource jobs to India and China, companies can rural-source to Oklahoma and have high-quality people with good training and reasonable rates,” Nimmo said. “Innovation One is a perfect example of what we can do in Oklahoma to support industry here instead of outsourcing to China and shipping things in.”
By keeping manufacturing operations in the oil patch, companies reduce their costs, McCaleb said.
“Transportation costs are a significant part of manufactured steel production,” he said. “We're positioned here in Oklahoma and in the center of the nation.”
Tribal members now represent about 12 percent of Innovation One and Bullet's combined employment. While the tribe hopes to increase that number, Nimmo said the larger goal is to benefit all of Love County and southern Oklahoma.
“If we can create jobs for everyone, all boats will rise together,” he said. “That's what we're experiencing here in Marietta already. We're taking the resources and knowledge we've gained with government contracts throughout the country and are applying them here in Oklahoma to grow those jobs at home.”