Originally appearing in The Voice News
Local manufacturing company experiences growth, diversification
MITCHELL — For nearly half a century, machine shop services have been provided in Mitchell by a local business that once focused primarily on the hydraulic hose manufacturing industry.
That business – formerly Bare Manufacturing, Inc., and now McKiney Manufacturing & Sales – has recently been expanding its areas of expertise to include tube bending, precision machining, versatile water jet cutting, and fabrication services using state-of-the-art, computer-driven equipment that produces high quality, custom results.
Roger McKiney and his wife, Julie McKiney, purchased the business in 2015, and continued to service the hydraulic hose manufacturing industry. Since then, however, they have brought in advanced equipment including an Alpine computer numerical control (CNC) pipe bender, an Eagle I/O tube end former, and most recently a Maxiem waterjet machine that can make precision cuts in metal, wood, plastic, foam, and just about any other material.
Using the new, advanced equipment, skilled workers fabricate exhaust systems for liquified petroleum (LP) and natural gas generators, and are beginning to see many possibilities in manufacturing using the waterjet system, like unique precision-cut signs that could be made from a variety of materials including wood, and the custom tool boxes they are currently constructing for an industrial customer.
To help with their expansion and diversification of services, the company has been awarded economic development grants from the cities of Mitchell and Scottsbluff. In February, the City of Mitchell approved a grant of $10,000 in local option municipal economic development funds (LB840) to help with infrastructure.
“It’s nice to have the current administration’s support on seeing the growth opportunities and working together with us to continue to grow,” Roger McKiney said. “We are still a small company, and if we grow by 50 percent, we will still be a small company.”
The company previously received $90,000 in LB840 funds from the City of Scottsbluff to help with the purchase of equipment and materials.
The grants from both cities are helping to cover the cost of machinery and utility infrastructure, specifically in the waterjet machining center, Roger McKiney said.
While the McKineys are proud of their state-of-the-art equipment and their machine shops that are situated along 12th Street just east of Center Avenue, Roger McKiney credits the success of the business and the quality of its products to the skilled workers they employ who operate that equipment and work to fill customer orders.
“We are very proud of what we do,” he said. “I would put our team up against anyone, not only in the Valley but along the Front Range. We’re good at what we do.”
In addition to the McKineys, the company currently has six employees who are cross-trained and highly skilled in a variety of operations.
“We want every one of our employees to be able to run all the equipment and understand all the processes,” Roger McKiney said.
One of the employees is the McKineys’ son, Trevor McKiney. Another is Riggin McKnight, who has extensive experience and masterful skills, having worked for the previous owner of the business for many years. Additional skilled workers are Aaron Wadhams, Tanner Smith, Edward Cargile, and Tim Francisco.
“We have built a really good staff with the right people, and we hope to add a couple more within the next month to two months,” Roger McKiney said.
Both Roger and Julie bring talents and skills from previous career experience that are helping them to manage their own business. Julie has 11 years’ experience in corporate operations and human resources, and also owned and operated a wellness spa, managing all facets of the business. Roger has a machining background, having worked for Kurt Manufacturing for nearly 20 years.
He said he not only developed manufacturing skills at Kurt, he also learned a great deal about managing a business from Larry Blehm, who was a division manager at Kurt, and his wife, Shirley Blehm, who was a human resources manager.
“A lot of the same philosophies that were at that larger company, we try to implement here,” he said, adding that Larry Blehm was a “great mentor” who taught him the best way to treat employees.
While owning and operating their own business has been satisfying, Roger McKiney said there have also been many challenges and obstacles, especially in the first couple of years. The business experienced a bit of difficulty soon after they purchased it, due to a significant downturn in the price of oil that impacted one of its largest customers.
In 2018, however, McKiney Manufacturing expanded its scope of work to include tube bending that is utilized in the manufacturing of the exhaust systems, among other things, and business began to pick up again, he said.
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