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Turning Innovation Into Enterprise


StartUp WV Manufacturing Spotlight – MarTek Limited

chicken switchMarTek Limited, headquartered in Big Chimney, West Virginia, designs and manufactures a unique line of patented electrical safety equipment sold throughout the United States and Canada and beyond.  Marketed under the trademarked name of “Chicken Switch,” the portable, remote-controlled equipment protects individuals from hazardous electrical arc flashes during high voltage circuit breaker switching activities.

Founded in 2004, MarTek opened its initial operations in a garage in Pinch.  By 2010, demand for the company’s products made it necessary to move into a larger facility in Big Chimney, and, at the same time, expand its product offerings.  All of MarTek’s products are designed and manufactured in-house.

Typical customers, of which many are Fortune 500 companies, cover a wide variety of industry sectors including manufacturing facilities, chemical plants, petroleum, mining, utilities, institutions, commercial, water and sewage, military, automakers, and construction.

In early 2012, MarTek participated in the StartUp West Virginia Manufacturing program, a joint initiative of TechConnect and the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing.

MarTek co-Owner Russ Safreed said the company’s involvement in the StartUp West Virginia Manufacturing program has been very beneficial in terms of both design and prototyping.

“We joined the program in early 2012,” Safreed said, “and by June of this year we moved to a larger building due to increased demand and an expanded product line.”

He noted that the company has increased its product line to more than 20 models, and that the recent growth had resulted in the company running out of space for inventory, production and staff.

“We also needed more manufacturing space so we could add CNC equipment soon.  The old facility just didn’t have space for that kind of expansion.”

Founding Owner Charlie McClung said MarTek is using 3-D printing technology.  “We have recently purchased our own 3D printer and have been really starting to learn how it can benefit our production.  There are many parts that we are finding we can ‘print’ and we see our use of 3D printing growing substantially.”  McClung credited RCBI for leading the company in this direction.

MarTek also has had success in the area of building its intellectual property.  “Two years ago, we purchased a patent from RJ Reynolds Company that allowed us to significantly expand our product line.  We were also just awarded our first patent by the U.S. Patent Office, and we have several more patent applications in the system.   If all goes well, we should have several patents in place over the next year or two,” McClung said.

McClung said their customer base continues to grow with most of our sales still in the U.S. and Canada.  However, he said MarTek is beginning to have success in exporting to other countries, such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Chili, South Korea and others.  “We have an exporter who is helping us with this, but we think foreign exports will be mostly a nominal growth opportunity for the foreseeable future.”

McClung reported that the company has hired another individual on the production side and expects more staff additions in the future.  “We have confidence we will be hiring more in the future,” he said.

He ended by saying that MarTek has benefited from its involvement in Startup WV Manufacturing and from the work and knowledge the company’s staff has gained from RCBI and others.  “As you can see, we are still excited about what we are doing and we feel like we are moving in the right direction.”