By Guest Columnist Joy Foy
Wonderful things go on every day in our local industries and businesses that we locals never hear about.
Back in 1990, I was working for Electro National Corporation (ENC). We got a call that the temperatures were so hot in Saudi Arabia that the glue ENC was using on the bomb release units was malfunctioning. Our drafting department, which included August Taylor, a local Canton guy, immediately made the needed switch to another composite and had the American weapons back in business that same day.
I also remember announcing to the Lions Club that the Director of the CAVS Center was going to be the program for the upcoming week. John Taylor, a long-time Lion Club member, was shocked when it wasn’t someone dealing with agriculture and baby calves.
Mississippi State University saw a need when Nissan came to Madison County with the learning curve this new automotive industry would present. The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension (CAVS-E) was created right across Interstate 55 from Nissan. CAVS-E was initially led by Dean Norman to address challenges Nissan and their suppliers would face with production, design and training. According to the CAVS-E website, “MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering faculty uses data gathering equipment and analysis software to solve chronic, live, on-the-job problems.” The expertise of CAVS-E has grown the problem solving organization to branch out and now also support marine, aerospace and new start-up businesses across the entire state.
In June, Glenn Dennis, the prior Director, retired after eighteen years at CAVS-E. Clay Walden, the Executive Director of CAVS, (the unit on the MSU Campus in Starkville) turned over the Director role of the CAVS Extension Center to Tonya McCall. Tonya is the first lady to head the CAVS- E in Canton, and she is a native Mississippi girl. She was working for Nissan before CAVS-E hired her in 2015.
As part of their site master planning project work, she explained that CAVS-E has the capability to scan buildings and use the scanned data to analyze renovations, additions, manufacturing process improvements and production line redesign options - all from a desk instead of at the site. Equipment like the Faro 3D Laser Scanner can help our companies to make improvements without the wasted time and cost of traditional trial and error ways of performing changes.
One project Tonya is especially proud of is her work with Matthew Summers, owner of SPEED Box, LLC. This is a Ridgeland company; and Matt, a former special forces soldier himself, designed and built a modular container system to make transporting military equipment easier. These snap together containers are lightweight and virtually indestructible. The Army Special Forces, Navy EOD, and Air Force Pararescue Jumpers were his original market. Later, Matt saw an opportunity to redesign and resize his product for the civilian market.
Tonya and a team from CAVS-E worked with Matt’s team. The partnership was able to be very successful, with a redesigned product resulting in a 227% increase in sales and $375,000 in cost savings. Tonya said, “These last six and half years have been so energizing. Every customer brings a new set of talented people and a new set of opportunities. It feels like a new job with each project.”
Local industry sure supports Canton’s slogan, “Rich History and Bright Future.” For more years than I have been in Madison County, industry has provided jobs for locals and goods and services worldwide to both government and civilian customers. CAVS-E is a great addition to local industry, as well as industry anywhere in the state, in that the engineers strive to meet the needs of manufacturing by providing technical expertise and advanced engineering tools that otherwise would not be available. Mississippi Economic Development Council awarded CAVS-E the Community Economic Development Award for its work in bringing advanced manufacturing jobs back to America.
Matthew Summers said it best, “CAVS-E were subject matter experts who helped a new company without a lot of in-house technical expertise make smart decisions, which saved money in tooling, labor and materials.” Now that is exciting news; and, with Tonya and her team, the future just gets brighter.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Joy Foy is married to James Foy and is a retired Economic Developer with the Mississippi Economic Development Authority. Foy is an active participant in the community of Canton. She is a member of the Canton Lions Club, the Keep Canton Beautiful Committee and the Canton Beautification Committee.