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Monday, May 2, 2016

RJ Thomas Manufacturing eyes bright future

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mark Leeds of RJ Thomas Manufacturing shows some of the freshly powder - coated pieces which will be permanently baked onto the picnic tables being made at the plant. Photo by Mike Leckband
With the nation's economic downturn weighing heavy on people's minds, one Cherokee company is maintaining an optimistic view about its future. Things have been good for RJ Thomas Manufacturing for the past several years. Recently the company installed a new powder coating line for painting many of their products, and future plans for the company include an expansion of the plant to incorporate a new thermal plastic system.

The company produces cooking grills, picnic tables and park benches which can be found all over the world. The company has many customers, but one of the biggest is the United States government. In 2009, the company is planning to add a thermal plastic system and Co-owner, Steve Thomas added, "We are always expanding our product line."

Thomas said that this year RJ Thomas will continue to produce more decorative products, including park benches, trash receptacles and other side amenities for commercial districts. RJ Thomas manufactures many different commercial outdoor park equipment products, which they market under the trade name "Pilot Rock."

"Things are going good here in Cherokee," said Thomas, "We're branching out, shipping a lot overseas." Thomas also mentioned that they are developing a European market. He described how competition with foreign business is one of the biggest challenges that his company faces for the future.

"We are truly blessed with an outstanding workforce out here. They are our greatest asset," said Thomas. Thomas hasn't forgotten what has made the company successful. "We're a very community minded company and it's our employees who are our biggest asset. We have people who have worked here for over 35 years."

With very little turnover in personnel, the employees are the heart of the company. From designing to delivering their product, the company has 60 employees who always make work a group effort. The plant runs from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week.

Whatever the challenge, Thomas knows that to be efficient, the company must find out what the customers want and make it for them, so that way the company will remain competitive. The company supplies its products to the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. It even seems that the US Armed Forces has gotten use out of the RJ Thomas products.

Since 1959, the family-run enterprise of RJ Thomas Mfg. has remained in the same location, but has grown to 200, 000 square feet.

The company is located two miles south of Cherokee on Hwy. 59.

Although RJ Thomas is a commercial company, they don't forget about the little guy. If there is an item you would like, a complete catalog is available from the company. You can stop by or check out their website at www.pilotrock.com.

Thomas added that he loves being in Cherokee , is optimistic about the company's future, and is looking forward to the company's continued growth.

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