By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Drive along the Muskogee Turnpike, Interstate 40 or just about any area highway and you likely will see the work of Advanced Workzone Services employees.
They're the ones who make and install the yellow impact drums, the flashing orange lights, the construction zone signs, and the reflective lane markers when Oklahoma roads need repair.
"We want to keep drivers safe as well as workers safe," said Advanced Workzone President Alma Pickle. "Construction is extremely dangerous work. We want to make sure road workers get home at night."
In the six years it has been in business in southern Muskogee, Advanced Workzone Services has handled projects across Oklahoma, as well as Arkansas and Kansas. The cabinet in the company's conference room brims with more than 60 work orders.
"We've got a lot of projects going on, some in various stages of completion," Pickle said. "We have them through the state of Oklahoma, but our main focal area is eastern and northeastern Oklahoma, definitely I-35 and east."
The company specializes in pavement marking, portable signals and boards, traffic control devices and permanent signs. Pickle said the 40 or so workers fabricate the signs and other devices at the shop and install or remove them at the construction sites.
Pickle is one of three partners who established Advanced Workzone Services after working for another signal company. She said she was a receptionist for the company.
The other two establishing partners were Scott Gaddy, now the company vice president, and John Thomas, executive vice president.
A 1986 graduate of Fort Gibson High School, Pickle said the three located the company in Muskogee because each was from the area.
"Scott lives in Fort Gibson. John lives in Wagoner, this is our home, the area where we are from," she said.
Their love of their hometowns is shown in the unique ways Advanced Workzone supports the community. Employees consistently take some sort of top honor in the annual Exchange Club Chili & Barbecue Cook-Off. They also paddle around in cardboard boxes for the Cardboard Boat Regatta. And, workers helped out when the ESPN Bassmaster Elite Series came to Muskogee last June.
"We are big supporters of community events," Pickle said. "It boosts morale. It's good for the community, and it's a way we can get together."
Greg Raynor, who helps design signs on a computer, said he enjoys working with Advanced Workzone.
"The hours are good, the people are nice and they have a lot of benefits," Raynor said.
Pickle said her role as president of Advanced Workzone puts the company in a unique position in the industry. She said not only is she one of few female presidents in the industry, she also is a member of the Choctaw Nation.
"We are classified as a disadvantaged business enterprise," she said, adding that federal projects tend to support minority-run enterprises.
Although business has grown, Pickle said the company is not just interested in "growth for growth's sake."
"We don't have to be the biggest," she said. "We have a service business model. You want to take care of your customers."
Good customer service is a key to the company's success, Pickle said.
"Our goal is to be around a long time," she said. "We have a lot of families depending on us, so we want to be smart about the decisions we make."