Our growing, changing labor force

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As Shelby’s industrial base grows, the employees we celebrate on Labor Day will continue to evolve

The first Monday in September was set aside for Labor Day in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland, but its roots actually date back to the early 1880s.


But with labor in the name, many think the day is still set up to only praise those that work with their backs and hands, making up the backbone of our proud labor force.

But within our industries, where the Labor Day movement first started, there is so much more.

While assembly line work still makes up a portion of our vast industrial base in Shelby County, industries also offer much more than that.

Our industries are full of engineers, lab specialists, chemists, human resource specialists, computer network technicians, shipping and receiving specialists, and more.

There are a host of careers available in Shelby County from Katayama to Pegasus Industries and from Martinrea Heavy Stamping to the Eaton Corporation.

And with our county’s recent boom, many are expanding while other new industries are just breaking ground.

Here are a few positions that may not fall in your first thoughts of Labor Day, but as our workforce grows and changes positions like these become more and more important for us to celebrate.


Loads of labor


Chad Bailey carries a really big load at his job.

Bailey is a rigging engineer for Edwards Moving and Rigging, located on Isaac Shelby Drive.

Moving huge pieces of equipment – even houses – is the company’s function, and it’s Bailey’s job to orchestrate how each of those big jobs should be accomplished.

He lists some of his key responsibilities as producing method statement and engineering procedures and risk assessments for a wide variety of lifts, moves and transports. He has experience working with a number of companies installing and removing power generation equipment at power and substations around the nation.

A civil engineer and University of Louisville graduate, Bailey has been with Edwards for four years.

Bailey said that at Edwards, he likes the challenge of planning how to move large pieces of equipment, such as transformers, often long distances.

“You’re dealing with a lot of variables,” he said. “You’ve always got something in the way, there’s always an obstacle, and it seems like everything is getting heavier and bigger, so it’s always a challenge. You’ve got turns, you’ve got utilities, you’ve got overhead lights, wires and stuff like that, and bridges, you’ve just got so many variables.”

Each moving project is very involved, he said.

“It’s all got to be planned well in advance,” he said. “We’ve got projects that are a year out that we’re working on, so there’s a lot of preplanning involved.”

The largest object that Bailey was ever involved in moving was a large piece of equipment that weighed 440 tons, and was 25 feet in diameter.  It actually did not have to be moved very far, which was a good thing, he said.

“It was an old unit that was scraped onsite; we just had to move it out of the building,” he said.

That was in West Virginia, Bailey said, adding that Edwards’ crews work jobs throughout the nation.

“We’ve got stuff from New York to Florida,” he said. “Our crews are gone on a daily basis.”

Bailey said that one of the things he likes most about his job is that it never gets boring.

“It’s always a challenge,” he said. “You just never know what you are going to be working on – it keeps it interesting.”

- Compiled by Lisa King


Engineering a product line


Neil McKinney, a 10-year veteran with Roll Forming Corporation has served as an engineer with the company since he started in 2004.  Prior to that, he worked at a company in Louisville.

“I was an engineer at a company in Louisville. Basically I was trying to get close to home and heard this was a really good company,” McKinney said.

McKinney said he loves his job because he enjoys working on the machines and being on the front end of product launches.

“It’s something new everyday,” he said.

McKinney, his wife, and two sons call Shelby County home. And McKinney said he is grateful to work for a company in his hometown.

“We lived here for the past fifteen years. We grew up here, moved out, were in school, and came back,” he said.

Twenty-two years ago, McKinney graduated from Shelby County High School, and soon after attended Shelby County Vocational School where he learned to make tools.

However, after he was married and his wife got a job as a teacher in Louisville, McKinney decided to go back to school, soon earning his Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Louisville Speed School.


- Compiled by Ashley Wilkins


Lab tech gets fired up


Even after 10 years on the job, Melissa Mason-Cook still gets fired up about what she does.

“You have to take pride in what you do; that’s important to me,” she said.

A quality control technician at Blaze Products on Isaac Shelby Drive, it’s her job to inspect the company’s product before it’s shipped out.

Blaze makes fuel for chafing dishes, and Mason-Cook said her day begins by checking out samples from each batch of fuel to make sure it burns correctly. She has to lower the lights in the room, she said, so that she can see the flames adequately.

Getting the lighting just right is very important to that part of the testing process, she said.

“It’s kind of like watching the flames in a fireplace,” she said. “I test to make sure it doesn’t cause any problems while it’s burning; I listen for pops, loud sounds, anything that could be of concern.”

Mason-Cook, a resident of Taylorsville, said her routine doesn’t change much from day to day, and she doesn’t mind that. In fact she welcomes it because she knows she’s ready for any situation that could occur.

“I feel good about it because I know all about the product, and I know that it’s been well-tested,” she said.

She also enjoys the camaraderie and the atmosphere of teamwork at the company, she said.

“It’s a great company to work for; that means a lot to me,” she said. “We work well together, and we put out a great product.”


- Compiled by Lisa King