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Amateur radio company marks 40th anniversary

October 4, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
educ@starkvilledailynews.com

Martin F. Jue learned everything he needed to know about running a business from his parents’ 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 family’s grocery store before returning to Starkville and founding MFJ Enterprises.

“The model we used to build this is what we call the grocery store model,” Jue said. “It’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 you’re doing.”

Now, the Starkville-based MFJ is celebrating its 40th anniversary as one of the world’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 MFJ’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 “ham” radio specializes in two-way communication between amateurs, or “hams,” MSU Amateur Radio Club president Jarrod Marsh said. Because of MFJ’s stature in the ham radio community, Marsh said he expects the celebration to attract hams from across the country and the world.

“I could walk into just about any ham’s house and find something that was made here in Starkville (at MFJ),” Marsh said. “A lot of hams are going to be on the factory tours, because they’ve never been here before. They’ve never seen how it works.”

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.

“I used my initials because I didn’t want to use my name,” Jue said. “Companies (can) fail, and I didn’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.”

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.

“We’ve got some from California, Connecticut and Florida,” 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.

“By using Morse code, he beat those guys by far,” Jue said. “There’s clips of him on YouTube.”

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.

“They will be able to learn just about anything about ham radio they want,” Marsh said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

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