The much-anticipated opening of Brown Precision’s Atmore manufacturing facility is finally on the horizon.
An employee who will oversee plant operations during the start-up indicated last week, during the company’s first job fair (held January 25 and 26), that the plant should begin local operations no later than early March. Original projections were that the plant would open in 2017.
“We’re getting there; we’re close,” Evan Paulish, one of four Brown employees on hand to interview and take applications from prospective computer numerical control (CNC) machinists, said on January 26. “We thought we would already be in there by now, but we should be open within a month. The asphalt in the parking lot started (January 25), and that’s the last thing to do. The machines should start showing up next week.”
The Huntsville-based precision machining and manufacturing facility will produce high-quality, complex components for use in the aerospace and medical industries, ranging from a wide variety of large and small parts for helicopters and aircraft, to artificial joints for humans.
The Atmore plant will most likely machine components for the company’s aerospace clients, a list that includes GKN Aerospace, Bell, PPG Aerospace and GE Aviation.
Paulish said the initial development of a plant workforce that is expected to eventually reach 100 will be done in stages.
“Right out of the gate, we’ll probably hire five or six employees,” he explained. “We’re looking for five CNC machinists at this time. We’re going to hire in waves, little by little, so we don’t inundate ourselves with 50 new people. We don’t want to be getting everything set up and training people, too, right off the bat.”
According to Paulish, the 30,000 square foot plant, which sits on a slab that required 1,600 tons of concrete, would probably begin operations with one clerical employee, four or five machinists, himself and an unnamed quality control inspector.
“The quality guy and I will probably do the shipping and receiving until we can get going and hire somebody for that,” he said. “We want to get some of the bugs worked out before we bring 50 new people in there.”
CNC machinists must program, set up and operate computer numerical control machines, using basic math, geometry and trigonometry in calculating the requirements for each part being machined.
One of the job requirements was that machinists must travel to Huntsville for a two-week training session, but Paulish said that part might be dropped.
“It’s possible that they would still have to go to Huntsville, but we might just go ahead and do the training ourselves, down here,” he said, adding that the local factory would concentrate at first on fulfilling some contracts on which work is currently being done at Brown’s Huntsville headquarters. “We have some parts that we are running in Huntsville now, just waiting to move them down here. Most of what we do at first will be for the aerospace industry.”
Paulish was joined at the job fair by Human Resources Manager Patricia Reagan and fellow office staffers Jessica Lewis and Equinta Crutcher. The quartet agreed that the first day of the event drew a healthy response, while things slacked off on the second.
“We had a pretty decent and steady crowd yesterday,” Paulish said Friday morning. “We’ve had a pretty slow Friday. Most of the people we’ve seen are working somewhere already. Most of them have been from Atmore, but we’ve had a couple from Brewton and a couple that live here but drive to Greenville to go to work.”
Reagan, who also handles some accounting duties for the company, said future job fairs would be less job-specific and would probably draw a larger group of prospective employees.
“We had a pretty good mix this time,” she said. “But before we open up, when we have a regular job fair that’s not so specialized, I think we’ll have a much bigger turnout.”