Gila Bend, Arizona
Plenty of Allied Steel buildings across the country are used by truck-repair companies. But not many of them are housed inside the walls of a state prison.
Next Use Manufacturing is a privately owned truck repair shop firm, with mostly “civilian” customers, that just happens to have an unusual location.
At Lewis Prison in Gila Bend, Arizona, inmates earn an honest day’s pay at Next Use — repairing trucks as part of the prison’s Work Incentive Pay Plan. And they’re now working on those trucks in a brand new Allied Steel building with all the amenities of any service station “on the outside.”
“This is a great way to help the state lower its costs, because we pay them an hourly wage, which the state then charges them for room and board,” said Pete Johnston, Next Use plant supervisor. “The extra money goes into an account they can’t tap until they’re released, so they have money to get started in life when they’re free.”
Johnston calls this a win-win situation. The prisoners earn money and learn a trade they can use to make a positive mark in society. The prison saves money while developing model inmates. And Next Use gains a productive source of labor for welding, fabricating and repairing trucks.
Former General Manager Greg Kreshel chose Allied Steel for the company’s 100-by-250-foot facility after seeking bids from nearly 15 companies. Kreshel considered price when choosing Allied Steel, but also delivery, quality and customer service.
On all four fronts, Allied Steel gains high marks from Next Use Manufacturing, Johnston says. He says the building was competitive on price, but it also has exceeded expectations for quality. Plus, he says, Allied representatives were helpful every step of the way in the construction of the building, which took place in the fall of 2003.
“Everything we wanted to happen, did happen,” Johnston says. “After doing all that research on those other building manufacturers, Greg knew exactly what to look for; and Allied has pretty much supplied everything we wanted. We’ve got no complaints.”
Johnston says the building arrived on time in late August and construction began September 1. As he expected from his Allied Steel rep, the building’s frame – or “red iron” in Next Use parlance – was built in about two weeks. Two weeks after that, Johnston ‘s crew had finished the exterior construction.
From that point in early October, the electrical and sprinkler systems, along with the interior finish work, were ready to go by late December. Johnston says the building sprung to life as a business in January 2004, right on schedule.
Johnston says the facility is used by civilians and up to 20 inmate “employees” at a time. He says that the building provides all the needed amenities for the repair and service of the company’s truck clients.
But he did say there were some unique challenges associated with working at a private company on prison grounds. Especially when it came time to photograph the company’s new building.
“We had to clear it with the prison just to take a picture,” Johnston laughs. “The warden had to give us permission to have a camera inside the walls.”