of cotton, potato and peach country, the town thrived
as an agricultural center and a railroad hub. By 1902,
there were seven cotton gins in the immediate area
and two cotton compresses. Between March 1901 and
March 1902, 375 railroad cars of cotton product were
shipped out of Shawnee, along with 150,000 bales of
cotton. Feed stores, wagon yards, an overall factory
and an assortment of other businesses designed to
serve the farmers as they brought their crops to market
arose in Shawnee.
In 1903 and 1904 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa
Fe Railway and Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway
extended service to town. The railroads were not
only vital for transport; they were among the town’s
But as the railroads lost their powerful hold on
commerce, and the agriculture and cattle industries
changed, Shawnee no longer challenged the big cities.
By 2014, Shawnee’s population hovered around 31,000.
Today, Shawnee’s largest employers are three
tribe-owned casinos. The town serves as headquarters for the Sonic drive-in chain. And since 1974,
Wolverine Tubing provided jobs for more than 500
Wolverine was founded in 1916 in Michigan and
enjoyed initial success providing parts for the booming
automotive industry. Although the company suffered
a downturn during the Great Depression, its fortunes
revived with the U.S. entry into World War II and
continued through the post-war boom. Over the years,
the company expanded, adding plants in Oklahoma,
Tennessee, Alabama, London, Ontario and eventually
moved its headquarters from Michigan to Alabama.
Sometimes a business deal is more than just a transaction. The fate of more than 500 workers at the Wolverine Tube plant in Shawnee, OK
hinged on completing a loan that could save their jobs
or close the factory. Although the story has a fairytale
ending, the race to the finish line had more ups and
downs than a roller coaster.
Only an all-out sprint by MB Business Capital,
the Shawnee business community and Greg Gallman
— president and CEO of what is now Shawnee Tubing
Solutions — kept the plant from shuttering.
The town of Shawnee, located about 40 miles east
of Oklahoma City, once rivaled the state’s capital for
prominance in the state.
After the Civil War, Eastern settlers and European
transplants poured into Oklahoma. At first, large
swaths of Oklahoma lands were set aside for the Fox,
Sac, Shawnee and Kickapoo tribes, but pressure on
the U.S. government grew too strong. The Land Rush
of 1889 opened up the unassigned territories to white
settlers. Six years later, on July 4, 1895, the city of
Shawnee was founded.
The early years of the new century were boom
years for Shawnee. Ranchers drove their cattle across
the plains to reach the railroads. Located in the heart
Saving Shawnee Tubing:
Oklahoma Lender and Business Community
Rally to Save Local Factory
BY NADINE BONNER
Since 1974, the Wolverine Tube factory cranked out copper tubing for industry and construction use from
its Shawnee, OK plant. Last year, the Canadian owners decided to sell the factory, threatening more than
500 Shawnee jobs. Greg Gallman, the plant’s general manager, worked with local investors and bankers,
the city’s Economic Redevelopment Foundation and MB Business Capital to save the business and
renamed it Shawnee Tubing Solutions.
President & CEO,
Shawnee Tubing Solutions
“We had lawyers, bank presidents, optometrists — they all rallied behind us to keep the jobs here.”
— Greg Gallman, President & CEO, Shawnee Tubing Solutions