Trendsetters: Rural Rock Star
Jimmy Parker is a modest, soft-spoken man who’s worked in electrical service businesses most of his life. Six years ago, he opened Scales, Systems and Automation (SSA) in Sylvester, calibrating various types of scales that not only weigh products, but gauge temperature, humidity and other factors vital to the food and agricultural industries. Think truck scales, lab balances and yield scales for cotton or corn. He started the business with his own funds, a “right-hand man,” an office manager and a desire to “further my capabilities and do different things for customers.”
Today, SSA employs 21 along with a few student apprentices from Southern Regional Technical College. “We’ve taken local talent in Worth and surrounding counties and taught them a trade they wouldn’t have had,” he says.
Parker has diversified the business beyond calibrating and repairing scales to include custom equipment manufacturing and computer programming.
“We do a lot of consulting, where we study [a customer’s] process and figure out how to make it more economical to produce a product,” he says. “We go a step further and develop custom equipment – we can build a whole production line for customers. We also do a lot of computer software programming and metal fabrication and design.”
His customers are regional, national and international agricultural and chemical processing companies – including many household names. SSA’s equipment and services touch every part of a crop’s lifecycle, from fertilizer and seed to processing and distribution. You can find SSA equipment all over the U.S., in locations as far away as New York and Idaho. “If you ate a peanut, it’s touched one of our products,” he says.
How has this small business in Worth County achieved such success?
“I’ve always thought outside the box,” Parker says. “At a lot of the electric companies I worked at, I could see how machines operated and I made them more efficient. I developed software and mechanical design equipment to streamline stuff. The more I got exposed to processes and different environments, the more adept I got.”
Over the years, he built a reputation for ingenuity, so virtually all of SSA’s customers have come from referrals. “It’s word of mouth between engineers, plant managers and process control managers,” he says.
The Sylvester native says he decided to open his business there because it’s home and “it’s central to a lot of my customer base.” Due to SSA’s growth, in 2017 Parker was looking to purchase land to build a bigger facility when he struck a deal with the Worth County Economic Development Authority (EDA) that was a win for everyone. The EDA had a 48,000-square-foot building that had been vacant since about 1980. “We went in and revitalized it and made it our home,” he says of last spring’s move-in.
Parker says the secret to SSA’s growth is hard work and customer service. “I have some really good customers,” he says. “They take care of me, and if they need something I answer 24/7.”