Michael Malarkey's first glimpse of what would be his company's new factory in Oklahoma City was as “Oklahoma” as the red dirt in the satellite image he was sent to inspect.
There was Hobby Lobby along SW 44 east of Council Road — and there was what looked like a little-bitty place, which executives Jim Fagan, Richard Beals and Scott McDaniel, sent here from Oregon to scout properties, were recommending.
“He looked at ours and thought, ‘Oh, that's not big enough for a manufacturing plant,'” Fagan recalled Thursday at the grand opening of Malarkey Roofing Products' new factory just north of Hobby Lobby at 3400 S Council.
Welcome to Oklahoma. Hobby Lobby's plant, at around 5 million square feet, makes everything in the neighborhood look small.
It turned out that the 110,000-square-foot factory that company chairman Malarkey's leadership team had decided on was plenty big enough — and otherwise just right — for Portland, Ore.-based Malarkey Roofing Product's third factory.
That was in October 2010. By December, Malarkey had closed on the former Rexam Beverage Can Co./National Can Co. plant and 9 acres, in a $2.15 million deal handled by industrial property broker Gerald L. Gamble, and another 20 acres adjacent in a separate $1.15 million transaction by Gamble and Randy Lacey of Grubb & Elllis-Levy Beffort.
By July 2011, Malarkey was under way with $30 million-plus in improvements that would make the place its Oklahoma home away from home. Production is under way now, with 60 workers. A second phase could add as many more, Fagan said, “as soon as everybody in Oklahoma decides that we have good product.”
Thursday, over a barbecue lunch, suppliers, state officials and others heard them brag on Oklahoma.
“The personal warmth and experience that we had was phenomenal,” Beals, vice president of sales, told the group before plant tours. “We felt that we were home. Being a family-owned company, we felt like we were coming home to a family here. It was a wonderful feeling.”
That's one of the reasons the company is especially glad to have used all-U.S. companies and equipment in the retrofit, and in production, and to have all raw materials — 2 million pounds a day — coming from state and regional sources, said Gregory Malarkey, senior vice president and grandson of company founder Herbert Malarkey.
“This day and age, that's a tough thing to do,” he said. “We want to keep the money here and support the community here.”
Of course, it was business that got Malarkey here — although Fagan said his grandfather was born in Oklahoma City in 1905 and Fagan was stationed at Fort Sill in the late 1970s.
Malarkey, founded in 1956, first expanded in 2003 to South Gate, Calif., near Los Angeles. State Farm Insurance encouraged the company to expand to this part of the country, Fagan said, because of its storm-resistant roofing materials.
“Oklahoma City is actually a perfect environment for us. We have complete access to transportation to a lot of metropolitan areas in the Midwest, and the most important thing, all the raw material supply streams are within 300 miles of our facility here, which means more jobs. ... It's a good thing for all of us.”