North Mississippi Conveyor celebrates 20 years; looks forward to many more

Staff Writer

What would you do if you had to paint hundreds of toolboxes everyday? What would you do if each one of those toolboxes had to be treated, cleaned, dried, painted and then dried again? How would the toolbox get from point A to point B in the most efficient way?

Thanks to a paint-finishing system engineered, manufactured and installed by North  Mississippi Conveyor in Oxford, the job would be a lot simpler, easier and efficient.

The system would carry the toolbox through every step of the process making sure it was all done right. But it doesn't have to be just toolboxes. It can be automobile facia or an appliance.

And it also doesn't have to be the paint finishing system NMC manufactures. The company also engineers, manufactures and installs overhead conveyors and specialty material-handling systems which are used everywhere from electronic-manufacturing plants to rock quarries.

"We can have five to seven projects going on at one time," NMC president Darrick Vanderford said. "Some are strictly manufacturing jobs but some are turn-key jobs."

With approximately 40 employees (depending on the size of the projects) and 30,000 square-feet of manufacturing area, NMC manufactures and installs for companies across the country and exports to countries such as Canada, China, Thailand, Brazil, India and Mexico

The installation of these international systems typically take place with local crews, but NMC supervisors have been onsite to oversee the installation of the equipment and to startup the system.

North Mississippi Erection Company was founded in April 1982 by John D. Vanderford Sr. to provide conveyor installation and other millwright services in the north Mississippi area. Prior to founding NMECO, John Vanderford served as vice-president of a Memphis, Tenn.-based conveyor company from 1969 to 1980.

"He worked in the industry for a number of years with a firm in Memphis," Darrick Vanderford said. "Working there, he was going farther and farther from home.  He needed something to keep four boys out of trouble."

NMECO experienced steady growth over the years and was incorporated in 1984.  Also in 1984, NMECO began manufacturing its own I-Beam conveyor components, and engineering and manufacturing specialized conveyor components.

On August 31, 1997, the name officially changed with the Secretary of State to North Mississippi Conveyor Company Inc.

The elder Vanderford retired from active involvement in the company in 2001, but all four sons are still actively involved in the company: Darrick Vanderford - President; David Vanderford - Vice-President, field operations; Darrell Vanderford - manufacturing operations; and Doug Vanderford - estimating and sales.

As the company has grown so has its name.

"We have done several recent projects which have gained national attention," Darrick Vanderford said.

Some of the major projects within the last year include a paint shop addition for a watercraft/ATV manufacturer in Georgia, an overhead power & free system being designed, manufactured and installed for a heavy equipment cab manufacturer in South Carolina, and a paint shop for an automotive facia facility in Indiana. Two other projects include separate expansions being completed for toolbox manufacturers in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

In addition to its own conveyor applications, NMC also represents and installs equipment for other quality firms throughout the industry. These firms include:  George Koch Sons Inc. in Evansville, Ind., with paint finishing equipment; Webb-Unibilt in Farmington Hills, Mich., with enclosed track systems; Automatic Systems Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., with material handling systems.

NMC has built a conveyor that is just a few feet in length or, as in the case with the longest overhead conveyor it has every built, it could stretch 6.1 miles. The length depends on what the customer wants. The company uses the services of anywhere from five to eight steel suppliers and receives shipments of steel ranging from 20 tons to 40 tons.

With the Nissan plant locating in Canton, NMC forecasts an increase in revenues for the next two to three years. While many of the major systems are already underway, there will be additional tier one and tier tow suppliers who will be locating and/or expanding in the area to assist in Nissan's production requirements.

The company is already actively involved in the design, manufacture and installation of an electro-coat paint system for one of the frame suppliers to begin later this year

Revenues for the prior fiscal year were $6.5 million. But current fiscal-year revenues will be slightly less due to the recession, Darrick Vanderford said.

"My dad started this company in his carport in Oxford," Darrick Vanderford said. "It has grown beyond his highest expectations.  We've grown every year and keep on growing."

                   -Shea Stewart can be reached at

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