This article originally appeared on the “Georgia: We Speak Business Blog” on January 25, 2017.

To say that the poultry industry in Georgia is huge could be the understatement of the year. Poultry is the largest sector of Georgia’s agriculture industry. Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 102 of them produce more than $1 million in poultry annually, and 59 counties are home to processing facilities, growers and feed mills.

And to top it off, the Port of Savannah handles nearly 40 percent of America’s containerized poultry exports. When you think of chicken, you may think of the meat counter at your favorite grocery store or butcher shop, or maybe even the restaurant downtown, but the reach and importance of Georgia’s poultry industry is much greater.

Small businesses across the state provide many valuable services for the industry, such as DeLong’s Gizzard Equipment.

How They Began

Originally hailing from Gainesville, Horrace DeLong managed a crew that provided plant maintenance for poultry processing facilities. In 1971, the family began to focus on the fabrication of replacement parts used in processing facilities. They began to manufacture peeler rollers and perfected the product in 1985.

Demand for the rollers rose and the company grew. In 1987, they developed a machine shop/office in an old chicken house, right across the road from DeLong’s current location. The company began working with distributors to market the peeler rollers and continued working directly with the end user (poultry processing facilities).

Mary DeLong Murray, Horrace’s granddaughter, started working with the business in 1997 and now oversees the company. Their current building was constructed in 2001 and was expanded in 2008. The facility currently occupies 5,000 sq. ft. and has 11 employees.

DeLong’s is a third generation family business. Mary’s husband, Rob, stays in touch with the needs of poultry plants to determine what their future needs might be. Their engineer, Josh, works to engineer new products and refine existing products to meet the needs of the poultry industry. Because of these discussions and innovations, the company has developed an automated product that helps improve employee safety.

An Innovative Product

DeLong’s Gizzard Equipment’s bread and butter is an engineered roller that creates “pinch points.” A set of two rollers spin at high speeds and product is placed on top of the rollers. As the rollers spin, the pinch points grab onto unwanted loose material and removes it from the meat. The unwanted material drops below the rollers, to be removed later. The patented design of the rollers, coupled with the spinning, moves the cleansed meat to the end of the roller system where it is removed and sent to the next processing step.

Mary offers some great advice for other small businesses and entrepreneurs. “Work hard and be diligent. Stay in the market and be able to change with the times.”

And she speaks with experience as much of the growth of DeLong’s has come from diversifying into additional markets and products which now includes the turkey industry. As most of the turkey growers are located in the Mid-Atlantic Midwest states because of weather, DeLong’s products are experiencing nationwide success.

What’s Next?

DeLongs will be an exhibitor in theInternational Poultry Exposition next week, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. If you’re planning on attending, be sure to drop by their booth (Hall C, Booth 1233) and tell Mary, Rob and the rest of the team hello!

DeLong’s has worked closely with Central Georgia Technical College, and in 2008, they received a grant that allowed them to upgrade their CAD drawing capabilities. They have also been a nominee for Georgia’s Manufacturer of the Year Award.

Delong’s is a member of Georgia Grown, the US Poultry Association, the Georgia Poultry Federation, the National Turkey Federation and many others.

Interested in learning more about DeLong’s? Check them out online, and connect with them on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and LinkedIn.

Read the original article.