BY RICH JONES
ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR
Greeneville-based Meco reintroduced its entire outdoor BBQ business earlier this year with the launch of four brand initiatives and a renewed focus on made-in-the-U.S.A. gas, charcoal, and electric grills and smokers.
Nevertheless, much of the rebranding of backyard grills -- to local folks -- will still look much like the familiar cookout standbys that have for decades made Meco successful.
"Our main focus is 'Made In America,'" said Meco product manager Whitney Winter on Tuesday.
That focus led Meco to unveil its OneFire grill collection.
All of the OneFire products are made right here in Greeneville.
The OneFire brand will focus on providing consumers grilling experiences that reflect the great American melting pot of diverse cultural flavors and personalities, the company's promotional material says.
"With OneFire we're collecting, designing, and manufacturing BBQ grilling traditions from around the world," said Vice President of Strategic Development Bob Hebner in a news release.
The OneFire grills ( http://www.OneFireGrills.com) are organized in four categories:
* The Americana, which is the familiar square Meco four-legged charcoal grill -- with the red (or sometimes black) kettle top -- that has been sold for decades;
* The "Easy Street" electric grill that features a rotisserie function and is suited for outdoor patios and decks in apartments and condos;
* The Aussie Walkabout, that resembles the Americana but also features foldable legs with wheels, making it handy for tailgating and picnics; and
* The Southern Country Smokers, for slow-barbecue fans. The smokers are available in charcoal and electric models.
"We're doing well on the retail side," said President Mark Proffitt on Tuesday while standing amid the new lineup of grills in the lobby of Meco, just off Industrial Road.
Meco has always produced its charcoal grills in Greeneville.
However, in recent years the company has also marketed multi-burner gas grills manufactured in China. That line has been discontinued.
"Shifting our grill business to primarily USA production is a natural for us, (because we've) produced millions of grills in our Tennessee facility," Proffitt said.
CONTEST OPEN TO PUBLIC
Last week, Meco's new OneFire grill collection was chosen to participate in Wal-Mart's national "Get On The Shelf" campaign.
The contest, open to the public, includes opportunities for consumers to make their voices heard through online voting and features companies and products that are finalists in an original web series.
Winning companies will receive the opportunity to sell their product through Walmart.com and the grand champion can additionally receive valuable marketing support.
Voting has begun and continues through Sept. 2.
Anyone wishing to vote can go online to https://getontheshelf.walmart.com/product/1604/OneFire-Grills
BARBECUE AND MORE
Meco, a division of Unaka Corporation, has been designing, manufacturing, and marketing products from Greeneville for more than 50 years.
Its major components are the grill business, contract manufacturing, and the sale of indoor folding furniture.
Contract manufacturing is a widening area for Meco, Proffitt told The Greeneville Sun earlier this week.
Meco's vast facility includes 100,000 square-feet of assembly area, an in-house tool-and-die shop, a shearing operation, presses up to 600 tons, 18 shipping docks and direct rail service.
That places Meco in a position to provide other well-known companies with manufacturing capabilities such as metal stamping, fabrication, CNC (computer numerical control) machining, welding, powder coating, assembly, packaging and design support.
Among companies Meco is working with are Jost International, Angus-Palm and Appalachian Cast Products in Abingdon, Va., Proffitt said.
Meco currently has 120 employees.
For more information, go online to http://www.Meco.net
Just in time for Labor Day, be sure to see the Accent section in next Wednesday's Greeneville Sun for Kathy Knight's feature on grilling that features Meco products.