SMI Composites, 2021 Supplier of the Year award winner, was featured on Georgia.org! Check out their blog and interview with our Executive VP Shane Morris below.
One wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a company making high-end automotive “bling” in tiny Comer, Georgia, population 1,126. Yet that is exactly the community that one of Georgia’s GEAR Suppliers of the Year, SMI Composites, chose in 2014 as the ideal place to manufacture high-quality, molded parts for automakers including major GM brands Cadillac, Corvette, and Camaro.
“We were looking for a facility ‘off the grid’ that we could slowly develop and set up a vertical advanced manufacturing facility,” says Executive Vice President Shane Morse. “Composites is extremely labor-oriented. We wanted to be close to a technical school or university presence, and Comer is close to Athens Technical College, Lanier Technical College, the University of Georgia, and not far from Georgia Tech. In a rural setting, we can secure more land and continue to grow.”
SMI, a Mayco Group company, purchased an existing 10,000 square foot building in Madico Industrial Park and plans to continue expanding their acreage, facilities, and job opportunities, according to Morse, to meet demand from their automotive customers.
The company’s engagement with the community and exemplary performance as a Tier One supplier contributed to their award as 2021 GEAR Automotive Supplier of the Year (fewer than 200 employees). Winners are determined by votes cast by a committee of experts who retain a deep understanding of the automotive and manufacturing industries within the state. The GEAR Awards recognize advances in the state’s automotive and mobility industries through innovation and emerging technologies.
SMI produces autoclave-cured components – parts cured at extremely high pressure – utilizing materials like carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar, all known for their longevity, lightness, and corrosion resistance. In addition to customized production tooling, their facilities have integrated paint and finish capabilities that give product the perfect cosmetic appearance. These products are not just decorative: they contribute to vehicle aerodynamics, enhancing performance and track time.
SMI is unique among composites manufacturers: they don’t machine their products. Rather, SMI molds everything from start to finish, putting extra time into the tooling in order to produce superior parts.
“We spend time up front in the tooling process,” says Morse. “We mold, but we also do all the finishing, painting, and finessing, so we’re integrated, and it’s all under one roof, which bodes well for a more robust process.”
The company ships directly to GM plants and other Tier 1 companies. They also have customers in the aerospace, medical, and sports industries.
“The business and economic climate in Georgia is very approachable,” says Morse. “The state embraces new business and there’s not a lot of red tape as in some other states. Georgia is very open-minded and proactive. It supports business growth, and so does Madison County.”
Morse compares SMI to a fine jeweler due to the company’s similar attention to detail, and he compliments SMI’s Georgia workforce.
“Some of our people have crazy skills,” he says. “They bring discipline and background from various industries, including racing and aerospace, so we have a strong, rich automotive approach that adds to our strength as a supplier.”
The company has created an innovative partnership for hiring and training with Athens Tech, which offers programs in automotive paint and manufacturing, as well as with Madison County High School. Morse recounts a story of hosting General Motors executives before the pandemic and describing SMI’s close relationship with Athens Tech.
“That relationship, and how we are integrating with the technical colleges and leveraging that collaboration for growth, constituted much of the conversation,” he says. “Business isn’t necessarily about buying equipment for capital, it’s really about people, about folks that want a real job and want to develop skills. We’ve booked business for the next 10 to 15 years, and there’s more coming as we continue to expand.”
Morse believes the GEAR Award will drive customer awareness not only of their highly specialized product and innovative process, but also of the integration of technical college training into the workforce pipeline. He is also upbeat about their ability to attract talent.
“We think it will entice people to work at SMI because we’re a little different from everyone else. It’s not just about putting a sign out on the corner, it’s trying to tell the story,” he says.