By STEVEN NALLEY
Martin F. Jue learned everything he needed to know about running a business from his parentsâ€™ grocery store.
Jue said he grew up in the Mississippi Delta, where the family business was a small country grocery store. After getting an undergraduate degree in engineering from Mississippi State University and a graduate degree from Georgia Institute of Technology, he said he spent several years running his familyâ€™s grocery store before returning to Starkville and founding MFJ Enterprises.
â€śThe model we used to build this is what we call the grocery store model,â€ť Jue said. â€śItâ€™s just making sure everything you do (makes) money, (and) you make sure you take care of your employees and make sure you pay attention to what youâ€™re doing.â€ť
Now, the Starkville-based MFJ is celebrating its 40th anniversary as one of the worldâ€™s leading amateur radio part and equipment manufacturers with free guided tours Friday and Saturday and a free luncheon Saturday in coordination with the annual Mississippi ARRL Day in the Park.
Jue said tours will be available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, and McKee Park will host free tailgating from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and a free luncheon from noon to 2 p.m. Amateur radio enthusiasts are also invited to participate in MFJâ€™s Special Event Station from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jue said, and those who do not yet have their amateur radio licenses will be able to take an FCC license exam with $15 and a government photo ID.
Where broadcast radio specializes in commercial broadcasts to the general public, amateur or â€śhamâ€ť radio specializes in two-way communication between amateurs, or â€śhams,â€ť MSU Amateur Radio Club president Jarrod Marsh said. Because of MFJâ€™s stature in the ham radio community, Marsh said he expects the celebration to attract hams from across the country and the world.
â€śI could walk into just about any hamâ€™s house and find something that was made here in Starkville (at MFJ),â€ť Marsh said. â€śA lot of hams are going to be on the factory tours, because theyâ€™ve never been here before. Theyâ€™ve never seen how it works.â€ť
Jue said he has loved radio since he was 8 years old, building crystal radios akin to the ones World War II soldiers would assemble from scraps and listen to in their foxholes.
He was already operating ham radios by the time he went to high school, he said, so ham radios became his natural choice when he wanted to start a business.
â€śI used my initials because I didnâ€™t want to use my name,â€ť Jue said. â€śCompanies (can) fail, and I didnâ€™t want to ruin the family name. It started from a little room I rented in downtown Starkville, that I rented for $16 per month. (Now,) we make more pieces of ham radio equipment than anyone else.â€ť
Jue said he is grateful to the hams who have made MFJ a success, and he considers this celebration to be his way of thanking them. He said hams from 25-30 states are expected to come to the celebration.
â€śWeâ€™ve got some from California, Connecticut and Florida,â€ť Jue said.
One major guest, Jue said, will be Chip Margelli, the marketing director at CQ Magazine who once challenged world champion text messengers to a race on the Jay Leno show to see whether cellular text messaging or radio-based Morse code could send messages faster.
â€śBy using Morse code, he beat those guys by far,â€ť Jue said. â€śThereâ€™s clips of him on YouTube.â€ť
Marsh said non-hams who are interested in seeing how ham radio works will be able to try the hobby at the Special Event Station.
The FCC allows non-licensed people to operate equipment under the supervision of a licensed control operator, he said.
â€śThey will be able to learn just about anything about ham radio they want,â€ť Marsh said. â€śIâ€™m looking forward to it.â€ť