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For owner Harry Babb, B&S Machine Shop is about more than steel and gears and precision crafting. “This is about family, about being a part of a something and giving back,” Babb said.


The Pensacola native has lived on Mobile Bay’s Eastern Shore for over 40 years, with roots that run deep into the land beside the sparkling bay. “I just think it’s a very gratifying business - an asset to the community,” he said.


Commitment is no stranger to Babb. Married to his wife Jo Ann for 36 years, he’s proud to call Point Clear home. “We got married in

Repairing up a Bearing Retainer

1972 and raised a family here,” Babb said. “I just think it’s a pleasant, quaint little community.” The sentiment carries on through his children. His daughter works as a nurse at Fairhope’s Thomas Hospital while his son works beside him.


It makes sense, since the business started as a union between father and son. “I can remember Dad and I started working together as a hobby when I was about 21,” Babb said. Harry already showed a predisposition for the craft in school and the time with his father lit a fire in him. The father-son duo worked together from 1973-75. “We opened up the machine shop as kind of a hobby thing,” Harry said. “It was just sort of part-time then.”


Then a disastrous visitor dictated his path. “In 1979, Hurricane Frederic destroyed the job I had at that time,” Babb said, “so the shop became my full-time job.”


Harry’s wife Jo Ann pitched in, helping him build the business “from the ground up,” and by his account she is as vital as the roof over the busy machinery.


The Babb family’s work reflected quality and before long B&S was established in the area, as evidenced by their longevity. “There are about five machine shops in the immediate area, and I think we’re about one of the oldest,” Babb said.


The variety of work indicates their flexibility. “We make a lot of parts for power plants, parts for the local yachting industry, parts for the cryogenics industry, valves and fittings, things for food manufacturing plants as well as a few local walk-in customers,” Babb said. The variety in the size of the contracts shows not only their capacity for accomplishing a task, but the heart they show for the community where they live.


“The biggest job we ever did was for a company in Mobile,” Babb said. “We had to make pipe fittings that were welded onto the ends of a rod and the quantity was so large it took us about three months to get it done. But we brought it in ahead of schedule.”


And their smallest job? Babb thought. “We recently repaired a walker for a disabled man here in the community,” he finally said in a matter of fact tone. Just one neighbor helping another.


From a few dollars to six figures, no size or scope is out of reach for a company that has earned their customers’ trust with timeless standards of quality and efficiency.


When asked about the job he’s proudest of, Babb didn’t hesitate. “A customer contacted us about a gas treatment plant in Atmore,” he said, “and they needed a crank shaft made. The OEM wasn’t making it anymore and it was going to take 18 months lead time to get this made through the usual route. We got it done in two months which isn’t bad considering it was the first thing as complicated as that we had done.”


Harry has kept the same commitment to quality over the decades, but some things do change. “In the early years, we used all conventional equipment, and in the early ‘90s we started implementing CNC equipment which is all computer controlled,” he said. “Now we’ve got about eight of them in shop, and we still run both the conventional and the CNC.”


Babb feels his biggest asset is something obvious. “Our personnel pride themselves in making parts to each customer’s specific standards and we provide documentation showing we have met those standards, both on material quality, dimensional quality and on-time delivery.”


What keeps him focused after all this time? “I like finding and satisfying the needs of our customers and I’m simply fascinated with manufacturing,” Babb said, “I get a lot of fulfillment out of that. I like being a community asset. We’ve got 17 employees who we supply jobs for here. That’s good for everybody.”


Steel shavings obviously flow through the Babb veins as Harry’s son Chris has picked up the family standard and is taking it into the future. Chris has two years of training at Sheldon State Technical College in Tuscaloosa. “He was trained in what they call ‘machine tool technology,’ but when we were in school it was just called ‘machine shop,’” Babb chuckled.


Chris returned home in 2000 to carry on the family tradition as an owner, technician and foreman for B&S. Will it carry on further into the future? “Well I’ve three grandsons and the older ones enjoy coming to the shop and ‘doing projects,’ whether it’s making motorcycle parts or helping Paw-Paw with personal boat projects,” Babb said with a grandfather’s proud smile.