Gear from Ada plant protects Oklahoma City firefighters and their counterparts across the globe

Globe Manufacturing plant manager Jannette Orr shows off a firefighters jacket under construction for the Oklahoma City Fire Department

Editor’s note: I recently traveled to Ada with my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, where we had the opportunity to tour a plant that makes “turnout” gear for firefighters across the world.  This is my report:

By Jim Stafford

ADA – Jannette Orr stood on MSA’s Globe turnout gear manufacturing floor in Ada and held up a firefighter coat that was under construction at the plant.

Bright yellow letters on the back read “OKLA CITY.”

Globe’s Ada plant and its 48 employees are producing 510 sets of three-layer firefighter jackets and pants for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, said Roger Page, Operations Manager for Globe’s three production facilities in Ada, Okla., Pittsfield, N.H. and Auburn, Maine.

“Recently, we reacquired the Oklahoma City contract,” Page said as he led me and colleagues from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) on a tour of the Ada production plant.

“Oklahoma City had previously been in our gear, and we’re excited to have them back,” he said.

Globe was founded in 1887 as a family-owned producer of protective clothing for firefighters and headquartered in Pittsfield, N.H. It was acquired in July 2017 by MSA Safety Inc., a publicly traded corporation headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Globe opened the Ada plant almost 16 years ago.

“We were having a really hard time hiring enough workers in the Pittsfield area, and we learned that Wrangler was leaving this area and had a very similar weight of fabric to that which we use,” said Page, who has worked for Globe for 36 years. “We decided to explore this area, and the Ada Jobs Foundation did a great job, almost recruiting us.”

Coalgate native Orr was among the former Wrangler employees who migrated to Globe, starting on the production floor as a stitcher. Today she is the plant manager, and personally trains new hires on the complexities of running sophisticated machinery.”

“Our workforce here is doing great,” Orr said. “We try to start them off on the right track. They work hard and steady. We make sure they have good benefits, because the employees here are like family.”

Globe uses what is known as the Toyota Sewing System in Ada to assemble the firefighter suits. It’s a manufacturing philosophy that began in Japan and moves each garment from station to station.

“As you look around the facility here, everything is done in single piece flow, with standup operations and more machines than there are people because they bump their operations as they go through the cell,” Page said. “It makes the operations a lot more flexible, and the workers aren’t stuck in one spot doing the same thing all day.”

Globe produces two of its seven styles of “turnout gear” or “bunker gear” – insider speak for firefighter protective apparel – at the Ada plant. Each firefighter garment has three layers that consist of an outer shell, a thermal liner and a moisture barrier.

“We have a host of options that can go on those base garments,” Page said. “For example, we have over 400 different sizes of radio pockets alone.”

Globe’s operation has benefited by a relationship with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, which is a partner with OCAST in the Oklahoma Innovation Model that provides assistance to small manufacturers and new ventures across the state.

“I’m just really impressed with the amount of effort that Oklahoma puts into supporting manufacturers, whether it’s the Ada Jobs Foundation, the Pontotoc Technology Center training center or the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance,” Page said. “All of that is phenomenal.”

In addition to Oklahoma City, Globe produces garments for firefighters in numerous other Oklahoma communities. Ada’s proximity to Oklahoma City afforded the city’s fire department an opportunity to eyeball their equipment under construction, Page said.

“It’s only fitting to be able to produce Oklahoma City’s firefighting gear an hour and a half away here in Ada,” he said. “They are excited to come down and watch their gear being built and meet the people building it.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Don’t criticize me! Steve Jobs shows how to respond to criticism


I’ve never responded particularly well to criticism.  I tend to have an instant reaction and lash out at the person providing the critique with words that I regret.  It’s something that I’m aware of and have to guard against constantly.

But it seems that I never handle it as well as I should. Call it a character flaw (among many).

Anyway, I saw this clip of Steve Jobs responding to an insulting question from an audience member at a 1997 developers conference. The guy wanted to show that Jobs didn’t know what he was talking about as far as software programming, along with a second question on what he had been doing the past seven years.

Jobs’ response blows me away. Instead of becoming angry and hurling an insult back at the guy (as I almost certainly would have), he sat and thought for several seconds. You can see that the wheels are turning as he formulates his answer and responds initially with a cliche about pleasing some of the people some of the time.  His long answer actually provided insight into why Apple developed products as it did.

Finally, he responds directly to the insult by admitting that he sometimes doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that mistakes will be made. At least someone is making some decisions for the company, he told the audience.  

Jobs’ response seems heartfelt and honest. It’s something I hope I can emulate in the future.  

I invite you to click on the video and watch Jobs respond to the insult.  I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.


A salute to our veterans and the Veterans Day Parade

The Purple Heart recipients float at the Fort Chaffee Veterans Day parade

My dad was a small town Southern boy from western Arkansas who built a successful career in the U.S. Army across three decades. As I understand the story, it began when he quit high school in the late 1940s and joined the Army.

For that, he earned a tour of duty in Alaska. But he missed a girl from back home in Booneville, Ark., and mustered out when his commitment was up.

He returned to Arkansas, married the girl and had a child – me – within a year. But running the local gas station wasn’t enough to support a family, so he re-upped in the Army.

This tour lasted until he retired from the military in 1976 and included assignments in Korea, Okinawa and 1969 Vietnam along the way.

I provide all that background because I was over in Fort Smith this past weekend to visit my widowed Mom. She told me she wanted to go to the annual Veterans Day parade at Ft. Chaffee that began at noon on Saturday.

The crowd lines the Veterans Day Parade route

I said ‘sure,’ although without any real enthusiasm or expectations. We picked up my niece, Katy, and headed out to Chaffee, most of which is now known as Chaffee Crossing and under development by the city of Fort Smith.

We found a place to park and walked to what turned out to be sort of Parade Central, which was right outside the military barbershop where Elvis received his haircut as he was inducted into the Army. It’s now a pretty fascinating little museum, which we toured.

For me, the interesting thing about the parade, which lasted about an hour, was watching the crowd and how the veterans among us reacted when various elements marched by. Local Junior ROTC troops marched by carrying American flags, and the vets snapped to attention.

My Mom watches the Veterans Day Parade.

Those marching in the parade were quick to say “thank you” to the veterans they recognized along the way who were wearing caps or other insignia that identified them as such.

It was a feel good event for both participants and onlookers, punctuated by a large group of motorcyclists who brought up the rear of the parade, came to a halt and dismounted as we watched. The leader commanded us to turn our attention the America flag behind us and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Turned out, I enjoyed the parade and the people watching. I was so happy that I got to take my mom to see it, even if she decided that it wasn’t as long as the previous parade she attended two years ago. (“There were so many more antique cars in the last parade,” she told me.)

So, to Master Sergeant Archie A.J. Stafford and all your fellow veterans, I salute you and your incredible sacrifice for this country.