PITTSBURG — It all started with rewinding and servicing electrical motors for mining companies in Southeast Kansas. 

Atkinson Industries was founded shortly after World War 1 in 1919 by a young entrepreneur L.M. “Tommy” Atkinson.

There was just one man when he started and now there’s a team of approximately 130 people. 

“He seemed like an active person, very entrepreneurial,” Marketing and Sales Manager Keith Ritchey said. “He seemed like he was a very busy man and smart man obviously.

“He died when he was around 51 and he accomplished a lot.” 

The company, also known as AZZ, recently celebrated 100 years in business on Thursday with a ribbon cutting. AZZ creates made-to-order enclosure systems, from power distribution and control centers to custom configurations. 

“I think the neat thing is that we don’t have a highly technical product, but we serve leading technologies,” Ritchey said. “A lot of our customers are leading edge manufacturers of equipment.”

Ritchey said AZZ serves a variety of markets globally. 

“That’s kind of a neat thing, from out of this little plant here in Pittsburg, Kansas, to do the things we do that goes nationwide and globally,” he said. 

Material Lead John Jasso has worked for the company for a decade. Jasso goes around and takes note of what is needed for the teams to start their day. He unloads trucks and heavy equipment. 

“I really enjoy it, I enjoy the people I work with and what I do,” he said. “The guys are good to work with, they do their jobs and we talk to one another and it makes work a lot more enjoyable when everybody communicates with one another.”

Fabricator and Welder Michael Duff has also worked for the company for nearly a decade and he shares Jasso’s sentiment. He comes in the morning and goes through duties with his team, then he works on buildings and reads prints, and then puts all of the pieces together. 

“I enjoy the challenges I have each day,” he said. “Each day has a challenge of its own because you don’t know exactly what you’re facing when you come in,” he said about the customized enclosures. 

Jasso’s job also allows him to go across the United States. He’s been everywhere from California to Florida, to New York to North Dakota where he has assisted with coal fired power plants, solar plants, wind farms, and combined cycle plants (coal and natural gas). 

There’s never a dull day, “there’s always something going on,” he said.   

For over two decades, Lead Mechanical Draftsman Joe Newcomb has been part of the company. There are four mechanical draftsman and they take building material that’s generated by engineers and generate shop drawings which are then used for shop personnel to build the enclosures, “everything from fabrication to electrical,” Newcomb said. 

Working at the company for just a few years longer than Newcomb, Inside Sales Support Staci Toney’s job is to get the Requests for Quote and orders in. Toney said she’s worked for the company for so long because everyone there is like her “second family.” 

The History

Atkinson, a native of Indiana, came to the Pittsburg area after serving in the U.S. Navy, Ritchey said. 

Additionally, Atkinson, was an early aviator and according to a recent news release, he was instrumental in starting The Pittsburg Airport Company in January 1928 and built an airport located one and one-quarter of a mile west of Broadway (Hwy-69) on Atkinson Road. 

Atkinson died in a plane crash in January 1934 and the city of Pittsburg purchased the airport one month after his death and officially named it Atkinson Municipal Airport, the release said. 

Following his death, Atkinson’s family sold the business and it continued to be operated as a motor rewind shop until the late 1950s. According to the release, at that time strip pit mining was done by diesel shovels and was starting to evolve into the use of electrical equipment, the release said. 

A local coal mining company in Pittsburg purchased the first electric shovel in the United States and needed power to operate the shovel. That is when Atkinson started the manufacturing of heavy duty specialized power distribution equipment for mining, the release said. They manufactured mine duty substations, mine duty switchgear, cable junction boxes, and cable couplers for mines domestically and internationally. 

Atkinson was also instrumental in the manufacturing of the “most recognized and dependable ground monitoring system for mining equipment.” It is called the Atkinson Omser and is the only product that they had patented. The company still sells the Omser today and it “is still highly praised as the best ground monitoring system for mining,” the release said. 

In the late 1970s, Atkinson decided to diversify it product offerings and started in the manufacturing of Factory Fabricated Electrical Enclosures also known as Power Distribution Centers (PDC’s) for the Petro-Chemical Industry. 

Nearly a decade later, Atkinson built 42,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant on 15 acres in the Pittsburg Industrial Park, specifically designed for manufacturing factory fabricated electrical enclosures, the release said. In the late 1980s Atkinson was instrumental in marketing the factory fabricated enclosure to the utility market for transmission and distribution and quickly became the leading manufacturer of control centers for utility substations, the release said. 

In the early ‘90s Atkinson expanded its product offerings and started the manufacturing of instrument centers for continuous emission monitoring at power generation plants. In 1993 AZTEC manufacturing (AZZ, Inc) purchased Atkinson Industries. 

In 1998 Atkinson doubled its capacity and added on a 46,000 square foot, high bay area with an interior height of thirty-five feet.

In 2013 the company did a 10,000 square foot office addition. The two additions bring the total square footage including office space to 100,000 square foot. According to the release, Atkinson has the ability to easily handle large, 16-foot wide by 65-foot long single section units or two-story units and has a crane capacity of 50 tons. 

Metal fabrication equipment, blasting and custom painting facilities in the plant give Atkinson the ability to completely manufacture the enclosures. For over 40 years, Atkinson has been a leading manufacturer of Factory Fabricated Modular Enclosures and has been serving the electrical industry for 100 years.