Working at the No. 1 commercial water user in the city, Koch Foods Export Director Dan Nuckolls agreed more than a decade ago to join the board of the then-Chattanooga Manufacturers Association to help work with other manufacturers to limit water costs at Koch's poultry processing plant in Chattanooga.
The CMA, which was later renamed to its current name of the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association, is the nation's first manufacturing association and has worked since its founding in 1902 on behalf of local manufacturers . For years, the group intervened in regulatory hearings about rate increases sought by Tennessee American Water, Chattanooga's biggest water utility.
"Once I got into the CMA and saw its value, not just in working on water rate but also in the training programs and networking opportunities it gave to talk with other people in manufacturing to share ideas, approaches and business.," Nuckolls says.
Nuckolls, a 63-year-old native of Tunnel Hill, has worked in the poultry industry for the past 35 years and has seen first hand the importance of manufacturing in Chattanooga. He joined Koch Foods in 1997 after previously serving as director of sales at the former Seaboard Farms (later acquired by Pilgrm's Pride) for nearly 13 years. He began his poultry career at ConAgra in North Georgia after working for a year at he Hardwick Bank & Trust in Dalton.
Koch processes 1.7 million chickens a week at its Kerr Street plant, which employes nearly 400 workers and supports hundreds of other poultry farms within a 100 miles of the company's Chattanooga facility. The front half of the processed birds go to deboning facilities Koch has in Gainesville, Georgia, and Morristown, Tennessee, and most of the dark meat, or about 40 percent of what the plant processes, is shipped to foreign markets, including Cuba, Angola, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and other countries.
When he was previously chair of CMA nearly a decade ago, the group expanded into Cleveland, Tennessee and other areas of the Chattanooga region at the urging of the late Tim Spires who was then president. A couple of years ago, the group took its membership appeal statewide under the banner the Tennessee Association of Manufacturers.
But with the untimely death of Spires in February, 2017, Nuckolls said the manufacturers group has decided "to refocus our efforts back to our core area, which has been our strength." The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry also strengthened its manufacturing commitment for statewide services.
"We remain dedicated to promoting and serving manufacturing in our region, which has and will continue to be the backbone of Chattanooga's economy," Nuckolls says.