Industrial instrument manufacturer Met-South announces relocation to Hanceville, cites WSCC as key factor

W.C. Mann

State and local officials look on as Cathy and Don Jesse announce Met-South’s relocation to Hanceville.

HANCEVILLE – At a special event Tuesday morning, industrial instrument and gauge maker Met-South announced that it will relocate its manufacturing operations to a new facility to be built in Hanceville.  Company President Don Jesse made the announcement in front of an auditorium packed with Cullman County and Hanceville City officials, as well as state legislators and representatives of other county municipalities.  Jesse cited Wallace State Community College (WSCC) and its Machine Tool Technology program as one of the primary reasons he and his wife Cathy Jesse chose to relocate here, along with the area’s ready access to Birmingham and Huntsville business markets.

Met-South was located in Maplesville and Clanton, before moving to its current facility in Birmingham.

“With every move, we continued to struggle to find qualified people,” said Don Jesse. 

Cathy Jesse added, “We finally hit gold by finding Wallace State.”

The “Met” in Met-South is metrology, the study of measurements.  The company produces precision measuring tools and gauges for automotive parts manufacturers and others.  WSCC Applied Technologies Director Jimmy Hodges explained a little about what Met-South hopes to get from the school:

“They are a company that makes gauges and fixtures for the automotive supplier industry; and so our machine shop produces machinists, CNC programmers and tool and die technicians.  All of those trades are used in their business.  Our students are useful in all of those areas that they have.  We also helped them get an apprenticeship.  They have a registered Department of Labor apprenticeship going on in their business; and that’s just an added benefit for our students.”

Machine Tool Department Director Gary McMinn added, “The main thing they’re looking for is CNC operators and programmers.  The last two semesters (applied technology) students are at WSCC, they do CNC programming, setup and operations.  We have a wide variety of machines in our department, and we give them a basis of mathematics: geometry, trigonometry; and also give them blueprint reading and general machine shop projects.”

Met-South supplies automotive parts manufacturers, and already has business relationships with REHAU, Topre and Yutaka, as well as companies in Tuscaloosa, Opelika, Birmingham, Huntsville and Pulaski, Tennessee.  It currently employs seven workers, including three WSCC graduates, and sees an expansion in business coming with growth in its available workforce.

Don Jesse observed, “With our trade, it’s all the amount of work that you can get in; and the biggest problem we have is getting skilled people.  Now we have that variable taken care of, so now it’s just pushing for the work.  We’ll be getting a salesman, and it’s going to be pushing us even more.”

He continued, “We have a great talent pool. At WSCC currently, they train them manually, then they go into the CNC projects.  Hats off to that, because in our trade, yes, you can push a button and make things work, if everything goes good; but a lot of the things you have to learn manually.  When they come from a talent pool like that, to do the manual pins and manual lathes, and building the small tools, they already have that knowledge when they go into the CNCs.  It makes it so much easier, because they already know what they’re building.  They have a great program, and we’re really happy.  We found where we were, what we were missing was not being close to Wallace State.”

The construction schedule is still in the works, but the Jesses hope to break ground as soon as possible, and Met-South’s Hanceville facility could be open in as little as four months.

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