In the News

Congressman Hern addresses concerns of manufacturers at round table discussion

Rhett Morgan, Tulsa World

BROKEN ARROW — Patrick Whalen, who works for TAT Limco, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the impact the pandemic had on the local aerospace company.

“Covid killed us,” said Whalen, Limco’s director of human resources and organizational development.

The company’s employee roster slipped from about 200 pre-COVID to below 100 during the pandemic, he said. Now, firm has returned to 198 workers.

“We have another 100 to hire, at least in the next six months or eight months,” Whalen said. “So, we’re doing everything we can to make it a more quality on-boarding experience. We’re doing signing bonuses and incentives, all kinds of things.”

Labor shortages and supply chain issues were among the subjects broached Thursday during a manufacturing round table discussion organized by U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., at the Broken Arrow campus of Northeastern State University.

Representatives from 17 area businesses, including such companies as TAT Limco, Milo’s Tea, Vacuworx and CymSTAR, attended the event, along with leaders from the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce and Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance.

“Any of these kinds of things that we get to do are very important for a small company like us,” Whalen said. “We are massively growing and any way we can find to grow and stay competitive among all the troubles with supply chain is huge.”

The hour-long round table was closed to the media, but Hern and some business reps made themselves available afterward.

Matt Mason, purchasing coordinator for Milo’s Tea in Owasso, talked about the struggle to hire truck drivers as many are approaching retirement. He also spoke about the need to focus more on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs.

“There are a lot of people in Washington D.C. talking about the problem of supply chain,” Hern said. “We hear it all the know. But it’s really good to hear from people who are experiencing it every single day trying to make the products for Americans and seeing how they are overcoming that.”

A nationwide shortage of truck drivers, a lack of available warehouse space, and rising consumer demand are among the supply chain challenges that are expected to continue to impact retail operations throughout 2022.

“We’re very blessed in our state to have a lot of career techs, and we need to get more folks who are getting those kind of skills who can be functional as soon as they graduate,” said Hern, a former McDonald’s franchisee with interests in several businesses that include banking and manufacturing. “… We need to build that workforce certainly as manufacturers are trying to grow in this environment.