Conference Table

It took the Great Plains village to custom build a one ton, 17ft. x 6’ Conference Table

They say it takes a village to raise a child – well it took many members of the Great Plains Technology Center village to custom-build a one-ton conference table for the new Business Development Center. When Lawton businessman Buddy Green made a significant contribution to help Great Plains build the center, Superintendent, Clarence Fortney felt it was appropriate to name its largest conference room in Green’s honor. Fortney also thought it was appropriate to create a conference table with an industrial design that not only complemented the Buddy Green Conference Room but also represented the overall feel of the 28,000-square-foot center. Fortney’s vision was to create a centerpiece for the largest conference room in the building. The 17-foot by 6-foot table achieved his vision.

Fortney, who began his career at Great Plains as a welding instructor teacher’s aide in 1980, knew the project would require “many hands on deck.” He worked with four Great Plains trades and industrial instructors and dozens of their students to design and build the conference table that anchors the Green Conference Room. Design and construction began in January and was completed in May – just in time for the ribbon cutting ceremony that formally opened the Business Development Center. They began with a vision and worked together to realize that vision, just as clients seeking to start or grow a business can grow their vision in the Business Development Center.

Fortney worked with Trace Browning, Tech Exploration instructor, and Allen Bellamy, welding instructor, to design the table’s steel framework, legs and red iron support beams. Browning used a plasma cutter to create patterns for the table.  Since the largest metal bender in Bellamy’s Great Plains welding shop would handle only 2-inch-wide steel, he bent the table’s metal components by hand and then welded the legs together. Bellamy estimated the legs account for about 1,700 pounds of the table’s massive weight.

As Browning and Bellamy worked on the metal components, carpentry instructor Clayton Snodgrass and construction trades instructor Tanner Biggs began the process that created the wooden tabletop. Snodgrass said the crew used reclaimed oak from Wal-Mart and Home Depot boxcars to create the table surface. The construction crew sanded each oak plank ten times and applied a coat of finish between each sanding. They finished the tabletop with a coat of piano lacquer to give it a distinctive dark sheen.

Snodgrass lent his artistic eye to the finish of the metal for the tabletop. He used a three-step process to give the metal a rusty industrial feel. First, he washed the steel in muriatic acid. He then followed with two coats of a chemical process called pickling. His final step was coating the metal with a combination of ammonia, sea salt and hydrogen peroxide.

When it came time to assemble the table, it was clear the table would have to be assembled in the Green Conference room, where it will stand permanently. Students in the trade and industrial programs carefully moved the table’s legs to the conference room. Another crew disassembled and numbered the wooden tabletop components in Snodgrass’ shop. They then moved the tabletop to the conference room to be reassembled the week before the Business Development Center’s grand opening.  The hand crafted table drew scores of compliments from persons who attended the grand opening, including Green.

The Business Development Center is an Oklahoma Certified Business Incubator that provides a nurturing business environment for tenant and client entrepreneurs who are engaged in commercial food production or commercial arts as well as for small business owners who need light industrial space.  In addition to the Buddy Green Conference Room, the incubator has individual and shared office spaces, the Comanche Nation Rapid Prototyping Lab, a smaller conference room and the 80 seat McMahon Lecture Hall.

The public may reserve any of the meeting rooms by contacting Cody Holt, Business Development Center manager, (580) 250-5519 or