Oct. 2 is National Manufacturing Day, and we’re excited to profile employees in different manufacturing companies around North Alabama to help you see some of the great work being done, and the careers that are available here locally.
Darlene Parks is a longtime employee of Tara Manufacturing in Owens Cross Roads. She’s been with the company for 30 years and says she loves her job and her co-workers. “It keeps me in shape. I feel like I work out every day,” Parks said. “It’s like putting a puzzle together, and the people I work with are my family. They’ve watched my kids grow up, I’ve watched theirs grow up. We’re a family. Our manager rewards us. I think I’ve had perfect attendance for 25 of the 30 years I’ve been here!”
Darlene is originally from Winchester, Tennessee, where she graduated from Franklin County High School. We really enjoyed meeting her and the team on our recent visit to the company to celebrate their expansion. It’s been an extremely busy year, with many people spending a lot more time at home during the pandemic – many have wanted to upgrade their pool. Tara Manufacturing makes pool liners and pool covers.
Carlos Gonzales began his career in 2015 with Prudent American Technologies, Inc. in Decatur, Ala. as a CNC machine operator. He worked the night shift as he finished his senior year at Austin High School while maintaining enrollment at a local college for dual credits toward a degree. Carlos was in Prudent American’s Apprenticeship program and the company supported him in completing his associates degree (Applied Science/Machine Tool Technology) in August of 2019. Carlos now oversees CNC programming support in the company’s first shift operations. He says when he’s not working, he enjoys riding his ATV and fishing.
Scott Johnstone also works at Prudent American Technologies, and said he became interested in becoming a machinist from watching and learning from his father, who owned a machine shop. Scott joined an apprentice program for manual machining and CNC machining. He says he uses problem solving and vision to select the right tools and tool paths to make quality parts for customers. He also enjoys seeing “the finished product” and being part of a team that works together to achieve a common goal.
Rossi Humphrey has worked at National Copper and Smelting (NCS) for 13 years. He is a Furnace Leader and oversees a furnace that anneals (tempers) copper tubing. Rossi makes sure all materials are correct and in accordance with customer specifications. He also keeps records, works safely, and maintains an orderly work environment. Rossi completed a two-year training program in Long Beach City, California in 1995, then attended the College of Oceaneering in Wilmington, CA and earned a welding technology certificate in 2004. He moved to the Huntsville area to be closer to family and joined NCS in 2007 where he has had steady employment ever since.
“My job is different every day, and we are paid on a weekly basis. The more you work, the better the pay. Over the years, I have made some nice friends who are co-workers at NCS,” said Rossi.
He says it’s also important to have good math and problem solving skills to help him work through production variables on a daily basis.
Thank you to Rossi Humphrey and National Copper and Smelting for sharing your story with us!
We want to share a great success story from Huntsville City Schools! Mark Pilotte teaches welding and machining at Grissom High School, as part of the district’s Career Technical Education program. Will Rogers is a recent graduate and contacted Mr. Pilotte recently to let him know about being hired at Polaris.
“I’ve loved the job since, so I wanted to thank you for being a great teacher and giving me the knowledge for success,” Rogers wrote.
Rogers recently dropped by the school to say hello. We want to thank Mark’s wife, Amanda Pilotte, for sharing these pictures with us.
Amanda also works for Huntsville Career Technical Education as a Professional School Counselor. Thank you to the Pilottes and all of our teachers for helping our students be ready for the workforce. We know it is a very tough year on so many levels, but we truly appreciate what you do. And congratulations, Will, on your job at Polaris – you’re with a great company!
Here’s another Polaris employee we’d like for you to meet, Christina Mullins. She has worked for the company for the past three and a half years, and is responsible for assembling parts for the brake line.
“I have previous experience in manufacturing while I was living in California back in the 90’s,” said Mullins. “When I moved to north Alabama, Polaris was in the process of opening the plant in Huntsville. I was already familiar with the brand and admired the company’s mission and values. I was honored to be selected to work for Polaris.”
Here’s something unique about Christina – she is Deaf, and taught some of her colleagues at the brake house American Sign Language to make communication easier and efficient. “I enjoy working with my colleagues because we are all about teamwork and bringing positivity to the workplace,” she said.
Christina says she feels that working for Polaris is an amazing opportunity because her supervisor and team trust in her abilities to do the job. “As the first Deaf employee at the Huntsville plant, I appreciate how others know that they can depend on me in getting the job done,” she said.
Christina, you are remarkable and we’ve really enjoyed learning about you and the team at Polaris. Keep up the fantastic work!
Kimberlie Watson is a production group leader in the body weld department at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing. The massive plant is currently under construction, and Kimberlie and many others are training locally and at different facilities to be ready for the start of production in 2021. About a year ago, she thought of how she could grow and challenge herself, so she applied for a group leader role at MTM. “Little did I know this would be the beginning of the most compelling experience of my life,” she said. Kimberlie said the company has invested in her professional and personal development and growth. She has trained in San Antonio, Texas, and in Toyota City, Japan. She also talked about a word she’s heard since the day she started with MTM. “Mendomi is a Japanese word meaning, take care of people like they are your family. Our advisors teach this, we learn it, and then we all live by it,” said Kimberlie.
Kimberlie, thank you for sharing your experience with us. We look forward to seeing you and the team at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing grow successfully in the years to come.
Meet Eric George of SEA Wire & Cable in Madison, Alabama. Eric used to work in the food service industry, but joined SEA in 2015 as an associate and advanced quickly. In 2019, he was named Warehouse Manager of one of the top suppliers of custom wire cable in the nation.
“In four short years my work and dedication to SEA paid off,” said Eric. “The best thing about SEA is its dedication to the employees to teach them everything they need to know while on the job. Before starting at SEA, I had no clue about aerospace and military wire, much less how to effectively direct and develop so many different diverse team members.”
Eric said his day includes coaching, assisting, and directing warehouse team members and departments. In this photo, he is in the center. On the left is Cortez Rainey, Shipping Supervisor, and Ronnie Dudley, Order Pulling Supervisor, is on the right. Eric says he enjoys the challenges of his role, because every day brings something new.
“Working for SEA is unique in the fact that while we are one of the leading companies within our industry, we still maintain a small company feel,” Eric added. “That is what attracts people to stay with us through the years regardless of the attempts that are made from other companies. We invest in our people and in return each of them makes the choice every day to invest in us. That second family feel, if you will.”
Jonathan Chaffee, a manufacturing operations specialist at Boeing, says that working in a manufacturing career is more than just a job to him. Rather, each day is an adventure that provides an opportunity to be part of something bigger than himself.
Jonathan supports shop managers on Boeing’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile seeker program with day-to-day operations such as prioritizing workloads, identifying innovations, performing impact analysis and conducting risk assessments.
Jonathan’s interest in aerospace started with airplanes. “When I was young, my grandfather explained to me how an airplane wing generates lift,” he said. “From there, my interest grew to include all things aerospace, both commercial and defense.”
Pursuing his interest, he studied aerospace technology at Calhoun Community College with a goal of working at Boeing and one day becoming a manufacturing manager. His hard work paid off when he was hired by the company in 2016.
“This job gives me the ability to learn and grow in my professional career by working alongside some of the most talented people in the aerospace industry,” said Chaffee. “Being a part of a program that helps protect warfighters across the globe and reassures their families is extremely rewarding.”
Logan Mooney is part of the manufacturing operations team supporting at Boeing, supporting the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile seeker program in Huntsville.
After beginning his career as a technician, Logan quickly became familiar with the manufacturing process, which helped him develop the skills to efficiently plan and facilitate projects and deliveries.
What Logan likes most about his job is automating reports and creating visual tools for his teammates to help create efficiencies and make their jobs easier.
“Each day is an opportunity to innovate and problem-solve for our customer,” said Mooney. “That’s what makes me love what I do at Boeing.”
Nick Ortiz is a Dynetics employee who works at the Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park. Ortiz is a manufacturing engineer focusing on electro-mechanical assemblies in the Dynetics Hardware Solutions department. He supports various projects like managing production, designing solutions for manufacturability issues, and implementing processes for product scaling.
Ortiz and his wife moved to Huntsville in 2009 when she was hired at LG Electronics. During his job search, he worked at a local automotive parts store and met a customer who asked about his background. Ortiz said he had studied computer-aided design (CAD) software, and the customer asked him for his resume, encouraging him to apply within his process engineering team in electronics manufacturing. That led him to the industry, and he worked for eight years supporting manufacturing operations in automotive, health, and commercial sectors before joining Dynetics in 2018.
What does he like about his current job? “There’s very little repetition. Every day, we are supporting production across many projects within Dynetics,” Ortiz said. “The quality of the products we build within our labs carry huge impacts, from defense technology that protects our soldiers, to air quality monitoring for the Orion spacecraft. Everyone in our company takes pride in the quality of their work, and they collaborate very well to achieve a common goal. Our department is still growing at a very fast pace; I’m glad I am able to contribute to the success of our department and programs across Dynetics.”
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Nick! We’re happy you’re in Huntsville and supporting a great company like Dynetics.
Dustin Elmore is a Mechanical Maintenance Technician with GE Aviation, and shared some information about what he does in his role. He said his primary responsibility is to keep processes up and running, through corrective and preventative maintenance. He repairs equipment, commissions new equipment, designs and fabricates tools to improve efficiency, and helps with coordination, communication, and maintenance planning.
His first job was as an automotive mechanic at age 16, and got into this through his hobby of classic cars and drag racing. He enjoyed fixing things and making the customer happy, and learned about having a good work ethic and being organized. Dustin later worked in a factory that built diesel engines, and when the plant closed a few years later, “maintenance team members had no trouble finding jobs,” he said. So, he went to Calhoun Community College, where he earned his degree in Industrial Maintenance, then started his bachelor’s degree at Athens State University. He kept an eye on GE’s website for an opening, and when he saw it, he applied quickly.
“I like the people that I am around every day,” he says. “From the person that I work directly with to the people in the different departments. They are all very helpful. We all have common interests, so we all work together well. The management and engineers here are very easy to work with and are very helpful.”
Dustin says he likes the culture and teamwork environment that exists at GE. “Compared to previous jobs, this is the best. For me it has been satisfying seen the plant transform from a construction site to a plant that is making product.”
Georgio Mccullough works at SCI, and his company says he’s an amazing employee who’s joined the team and really made a difference.
Georgio is an Engineering technician, and serves as the link between manufacturing and the Engineering Development department. He keeps track of his lab’s test equipment, maintains calibration, and communicates with engineers, supervisors, program managers and manufacturing staff to get the job done and deliver quality products to customers.
He says he enjoys working with his hands, fixing things or exploring how they work. In fact, he has a talent for troubleshooting household devices! He learned about SCI through Randstad, and earned his General Electrical Engineering bachelor’s degree and got the job.
“My main goal here at SCI is to be a team player and do good quality work, but also to continue learning from the talented professionals I work with on a day to day basis,” said Georgio. He says he likes meeting deadlines and enjoys working with the people on his team. He says working for SCI is challenging but also rewarding, and the company offers opportunities to move up the ladder.
Rhet Roberson works at Saint-Gobain Huntsville. He wears many hats in his role, including overseeing databases, IT for the industrial and business networks, product quality, and assisting with ISO 9000/9001 quality system and certification process, plus handling permits, scheduling, and budgeting with the plant manager.
Roberson said he had great influence from math and chemistry teachers in high school, then attended Northwest Shoals Community College and Calhoun Community College and transferred to UAH to major in Chemical Engineering. At UAH, he also expanded his skillset by learning computer science. “An internship at Saint-Gobain became available during my senior year at UAH. I was excited about the opportunity because I was given multiple opportunities to grow in an engineering role and also expand my knowledge base in several other areas of operations,” said Roberson. “Saint-Gobain then hired me as Manufacturing Engineer after 11 months in my intern role. I can truly see that Chemical Engineering goes hand in hand with manufacturing, and tends to give me a unique view of our manufacturing processes.”
Roberson says he enjoys interacting with his colleagues – everyone on site is helpful. “Saint-Gobain Huntsville is a fantastic place to work. There are plenty of opportunities for mobility and growth. The company is pushing an improved manufacturing environment focusing on automation, which is exciting. The culture on site is great and only getting better with time. Saint-Gobain Huntsville is a place I am proud to report to work at and represent daily.”
Rhet, thank you for sharing your story with us. We appreciate learning about what you do!
Daryl Moore is a Production Supervisor at Phoenix in Huntsville, and his duties include assisting the General Manager with day-to-day operations of manufacturing as well as troubleshooting for the company’s production line leads, grounds and facilities team members. He also oversees the design and delivery of finalized products.
“I came to Phoenix in 2012, working on the sewing line, and then moved on to becoming a slitter, cutting material for our flag operations,” said Daryl. “My supervisor, Tim Smith, noticed my multi-tasking skills and made me the Assistant Line Lead. Due to my background in upholstery, I was later promoted to another team working with those blueprints.”
Daryl said he never stops learning new things in his role, and during his eight years at Phoenix, he’s learned quite a bit, which makes his job enjoyable. He uses the word ‘AWESOME’ to describe his co-workers!
Meet Jesse Hammond, a Machine Maintenance Technician at Blue Origin Huntsville.
“My job here Blue is to troubleshoot and repair complex machinery using various tools and practices as well as creating and implementing preventive maintenance plans to eliminate production downtime,” Jesse explains.
He grew up on a large family farm in Anderson, Alabama, and did maintenance and carpentry work on the farm and in his community. “My father and both of my grandfathers are farmers and carpenters, so I was always involved with their projects and farm work which helped me to gain a technical skill set at a young age,” Jesse said. After high school, he attended Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Ala., where he earned his Industrial Maintenance Associates degree in two years. During college, he started his first job at Turner Medical in Athens, Ala. as a machinist and later transferred into their maintenance department which started his maintenance career.
Jesse says he likes the complex troubleshooting he gets to do as a maintenance technician, because every machine issue he runs into is different, and he gets to problem solve and really dig in to the machines to find out what needs to be adjusted. He also enjoys meeting lots of great people and developing friendships with co-workers that he has met over the years.
“Working for Blue Origin has been a blessing and an amazing opportunity for me,” said Jesse. “Blue has a very diverse culture and workforce with some of the brightest minds in the world. They are a very innovative company and technologically advanced company with their eyes always on the future. I am honored to be a part of the team that is actively building the road to space! Go Team Blue!”
Nikia Peterson is a Composite Manufacturing Technician at Aerojet Rocketdyne in Huntsville.
Aerojet Rocketdyne in Huntsville is home to some of the most advanced defense and space manufacturing technology in the world. Employees like Nikia at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new Advanced Manufacturing Facility are producing advanced propulsion such as solid rocket motor cases and other hardware for key U.S. defense and space programs.
Since joining Aerojet Rocketdyne less than a year ago, Nikia has developed her skills and experience immensely. Over the past few months she has embraced her teammates, learned more about solid rocket motor manufacturing processes, and has built a useful schedule that helps keep her focused and on task. Working closely with the engineering staff, Nikia has already increased efficiencies at the site, reducing the amount of time it takes to insulate a solid rocket motor case. Nikia plays an important role in developing the propulsion that helps defend America, our warfighters & allies. Her company says she has done an outstanding job!
In her role, Nikia insulates solid rocket motor cases and inspects them to make sure they meet the specs given by customers. The company says she is one of the first, if not THE first woman to perform case insulation for Aerojet Rocketdyne. When asked if she could be on her way to becoming the first female Lead Winder, Nikia says “Yes I will!”
Nikia learned about the job through the AIDT board. “I wasn’t sure if I was qualified because I didn’t know anything about rockets but I can drive a forklift so I gave it a try,” she said. “I became discouraged and considered quitting the class because it was very challenging. Aerojet Rocketdyne gave me the training and support I needed, and I had great teammates to learn from. I prayed about it and now this is going to be the place I retire from!”
She says she really likes the people, and has seen firsthand how the company values employees.
“When my mother was sick I was so scared to take any time off because I was new,” Nikia said. “My manager called me every day to reassure me that everything would be ok. He said just take care of my mom. That showed me how much they value their employees.”