SteelCell of North America Inc. in Habersham County was recognized Thursday with an Export Achievement Award at the company’s Baldwin headquarters.
Congressman Doug Collins made the presentation to SteelCell, located in the Habersham County Airport Industrial Park.
“It’s an honor to be here today to recognize the remarkable export achievements of SteelCell,” Collins said. “Georgia reached nearly $40 billion in exports last year, thanks to the work of SteelCell and countless other small firms across our state to continue to drive our economy.”
Established in 2001 as a privately held Georgia corporation to manufacture prefabricated jail cells and other rooms for detention and justice projects, SteelCell of North America Inc. currently employs 88 people at its Baldwin facility, and is undergoing expansion.
“The U.S. Commercial Service allows us to focus on what we do best – create modular detention units – while they assist us with finding and researching viable export opportunities,” said SteelCell Vice President Ray Handte. “It’s a perfect partnership.”
SteelCell began working with the U.S. Commercial Service in 2017 to qualify a trade lead from the Guyana Prison Systems.
While SteelCell is well known in the American corrections industry, Thursday’s recognition has to do with the company’s global presence.
“This revolves around one of the efforts we have had success with of late, working to help some countries in the Caribbean and Latin America with the horrifically antiquated facilities, many not meeting U.N. standards,” said SteelCell President Mike Smith. “Since it is an ongoing project, I need to hold the country name. We worked through our state and federal resources to vet the projects and players.”
In May 2018, SteelCell reported securing a multimillion-dollar transaction with a foreign nation, delivered in January 2019, with more sales to follow.
“We remind decision makers all the time that prefabrication is neither a new, nor certainly not a temporary solution to modern construction issues,” said Mike Smith, president of SteelCell. “Our goal is to offer the innovative, cost savings solutions to the global market and provide them with world-class technology.”
Currently, SteelCell’s physical footprint in Habersham County is growing as its market footprint is growing around the globe.
“We are expanding, adding another 40,000 square feet of manufacturing/storage space,” Smith said. “Mainly, this space will be utilized for the surge in demand from the domestic market.”
Smith said the growth is a result of agencies updating aging facilities to meet today’s specialized incarceration needs.
“This is not really being driven by what in the past gets labeled as ‘mass incarceration’,” Smith said. “We are mainly doing replacement facilities, a few additions. What has fueled the recent growth is the need for alternative, but quality methods to build with an ever-shrinking skilled labor force. This is creating demand for prefabricated product. SteelCell is responding to that need.”
The days of one size fits all jails are over and are giving way to facilities that can accommodate special populations as well, officials said.
“There is a definite shift to create living space for sentenced inmates, as well as those awaiting trial, that is more conducive to restorative justice,” Smith said. “Some are labeling this more ‘normalized’. There are always shifting philosophies in incarceration. SteelCell continues to adapt and work toward innovative solutions, particularly in the juvenile and mentally ill population.”
As business and the Baldwin facility grow, so is the company’s workforce.
“Our employment has increased by approximately 40%, and we continue to look for skilled labor in the welding, fitting, painting and fabrication field,” Smith said. “We proudly use domestic materials for all of our fabrication processes and source as local as possible for the components utilized in the process.”