WATER VALLEY – It’s not every day that a local business makes the centerfold of a trade publication. But for Valley Tool, Inc. owner Cayce Washington the recent article in Competitive Production, a trade publication published by Makino, represents the latest national recognition for his precision machine job shop.
In just over three years Washington has installed three Makino High-Performance Machining Centers in his business, machines that represent a million-plus investment. This investment keeps his shop on the cutting edge of technology–an important element in landing jobs from companies all across the country and right here in Yalobusha County.
The machines increase both the precision and production at the facility, marking another chapter as Washington has learned to survive the ebbs and flows that come with his mostly-manufacturing customer base since he purchased Valley Tool in 1997.
“The majority of our business are high end consumers like oil and gas, automotive, aerospace and medical. With that we are machining components to a super precise tolerance to meet the needs for their manufacturing environment,” Washing-ton explains.
The Makino machines help make the precision a reality. Washington first added a horizontal Makino machining center in 2011, and a second similar Makino was added the following year.
With the two machines, Washington told Competitive Production his company was producing more parts than all other equipment on the shop floor. The third Makino was added last spring.
Supporting Area Manufacturing
While the recent publicity is important to Valley Tool, the investment in the Makino machines has a strong impact for the local economy. Washington’s customers are scattered across the country and the world, but his work also comes right here at home. In fact, his business can actually be a drawing card for manufacturers in the area.
“Cayce is a great support operation for many of our larger, national companies in the area,” explains Yalobusha County Economic Development and Tourism Director Bob Tyler. “Valley Tool can quickly adapt if Winchester or BorgWarner has a need,” Tyler explains.
“He has done so much work with BorgWarner. This has been a great, ongoing exchange between the two companies,” Tyler reports.
Larry Smith, a long-time BorgWarner worker echoes Tyler’s sentiment.
“Cayce is a valuable assort to BorgWarner for sorting, chip slinging, tool making–especially on quick turnaround items,” Smith told the Herald.
BorgWarner is a familiar company in the area, but Washington has other local customers that include Winchester and Caterpillar in Oxford and General Electric and Parker Hannifin in Batesville.
“Most companies that manufacture, they need someone like us to support their operations,” Washing-ton explains. He is keenly aware that similar businesses are out there, competing for the same jobs as Valley Tool. But location is important in the equation.
“When Winchester moved to Oxford, they visited a lot of machine shops in the area to see what kind of support group they were going to have,” Washington explains.
“Sometimes the difference in keeping that machine running or not is having someone that can get them back running overnight,” he added about the support role his business plays for area manufactures.
Investing In The Community
Washington also is quick to point out that cooperation with city and county officials is vital for investing in new equipment including the Makino machines. Like other manufacturing businesses in the county, Washington receives a 10-year tax exemption for new equipment he purchases.
“The tax exemptions help us where we can go out and buy more equipment,” Washington explains. “Because if you are not paying it to the local county, what are you doing? You are investing it, you’re bringing this type of machine in,” Washington said.
With more advanced equipment, a greater skill level is also required for the work force.
“Which means we are going to pay them more,” Washington explains. This produces more money being pumped back into the community through Valley Tool’s payroll. With the majority of employees at Valley Tool living in the immediate area, that is a big boost to the local economy as the number of employees hovers around 150.
“And that’s where the county is getting the money back,” Washington explains.
Tyler also points to the skilled workforce at Valley Tool as a strong asset to the community, but for another reason.
“What he has accomplished proves we have a workforce in our county that can do high-skilled jobs. It validates that we have hard-working men and women right here in this county that can be trained for these types of jobs,” the county’s economic development noted.