Photo - A collection of custom made products are produced by Matt Turner.
(Photo by Courtney Schmidt)
Turner Fabrication: From School to Home to Business
By: Courtney Schmidt
When a large company has a machine that has just broken down, there isn’t a local hardware store to run down to and say, “Yes, I need a linear motion device for my machine.”
Fortunately, this is where Turner Fabrication, owned by Matt and Mary Turner, will save the day – and time and money – because of their local machine shop where custom made parts are engineered.
This full-service business, conveniently located off of Highway 59 on Stallings Drive, does well in Nacogdoches because of the business friendly environment, sufficient labor and low overhead, Matt said.
Selling expertise and machine time, Matt outsources manufacturing capability on a contract basis so that his client does not have to buy another machine or hire more workers.
“They outsource that to me on a temporary basis so it ends up being cheaper in the long run for them,” Matt said. “I’ll take the broken part and reverse engineer it and get them back in production.”
Originally from Houston, Matt went back to school in 2006 for a forestry degree at Stephen F. Austin State University with then fiancée, Mary Templeton. Two months later, Matt and Mary were married. After graduation they liked Nacogdoches so much, they decided not to pack up and move back to Houston, but to stay.
So how does a forestry major go into engineering?
According to Matt, when he enrolled in school, the forestry market was good; after his graduation, the market took a “nose dive.”
“I just kind of went back to what I knew,” Matt said. “I knew how to do it and I knew where to find clients.”
With 15 years of experience in the manufacturing and engineering field, Matt started taking fabrication jobs during the last quarter of 2009 and officially became a chamber member with a ribbon cutting this past June 19.
Compared to Houston, Nacogdoches has a lower cost of doing business, which is exactly what Matt and Mary were looking for when they settled here.
“Nacogdoches is very business-friendly,” Mary said. “It’s not that they don’t want business in Houston, obviously they do, but it’s so competitive there.”
In addition, according to Matt, the bigger cities regulate you out of business.
No matter the location, a fabrication shop is capital intensive. Every machine in Matt’s shop is worth several thousand dollars.
One of his machines, a highly equipped moving saw, has the ability to cut steel. After placing a steel cylinder rod with a circumference of about two inches between two one inch wide plates, Matt cranks up the machine. He turns a wheel room temperature coolant splashes onto the rod as a moving saw lowers simultaneously. The blade screeches as it meets steel. In a matter of minutes, a freshly cut, precise chunk of steel lies on the platform of the machine.
This machine is just one of the machines in his shop that has the capability to do multiple tasks and get the job done.
“But the good thing is that when you are in the machining industry you can re-outfit your own tools,” Mary said.
However, now that a lot of things are now computerized, craftsmen are getting harder to come by and vocational and technical schools are scarce. Great advocates for this type of education, the couple says that this is another challenge in the industry.
To help with this, Matt works with San Augustine County Judge Samye Johnson to increase technical and vocational training and also teaches at Lone Star College in Houston and Cy-Fair.
According to Michelle Smith, Vice President at Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation, Matt also has an interest in also becoming an instructor for the Nacogdoches Technical Training Center. This center is located on North St. and operated by Angelina College.
According to the website, nedco.org, this facility will “provide bankable job skills” including welding, HVAC and petroleum and automotive technology.
This center also provides “training classes for citizens to improve their education and skills,” the website states.
“I think [Matt] will definitely be an asset to the training center,” Smith said. “He’s really interested in offering his business and expertise.”
With his experience at Lone Star College, Matt will be able to contribute a great deal to the program.
“That’s all in pursuit of educating the workforce,” Matt said. “It’s creating a workforce out in that area so that we can attract further industrial development.”
“You almost need about two years’ worth of industry-specific training to be able to come into a shop and start working,” Matt said.
Nacogdoches is conveniently located when Matt needs raw materials from Houston or when Mary travels to 35 counties for her job as regional coordinator for the Texas Forest Trail, a division of the Texas Historical Commission.
“Thanks to a comfortable distance to Houston and [good delivery service businesses],” Mary said.
Mary’s employer, The Texas Forest Trail, focuses “on unique and authentic aspects of the region that would cause visitors to come here or people who live here to spend their free time here,” she said.
While looking for a place to rear their son, Andrew, they were also looking for a place full of social activities and entertainment.
“One of the great things we really enjoyed when we moved here was we met a really great group of friends,” Matt said. “A sense of community here is much stronger than we ever found in Houston.”
With a strong sense of the arts, community and business, the Turner family is able to have a sense of home and pace of life that they can comfortably live in while still running their businesses effectively.
After all, as Mary said, “a great place to visit is a great place to live.”