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August 03. 2012 8:53AM

Fergus Cullen: Actually, Mr. President, Marian Noronha built NH's Turbocam

IN 1977 at age 23, Marian Noronha bought a one-way plane ticket from his native India to Canada and exchanged the remainder of his life's savings for six dollars — five Canadian and one U.S. That last dollar represented his dream, held since age 10, of getting to America.

Today Noronha is president of Turbocam, the Barringtonbased manufacturing company that employs 550 people in 10 countries, 325 of them in Barrington and Dover. The company has 14 current job openings and plans to add 200 more at a new facility in Barrington.

And yes, Mr. President, Marian Noronha built this.

Trained as a windmill engineer, Noronha created his first U.S. job by offering to work for a Vermont firm for five weeks for free. That brought Noronha into contact with Dartmouth, where he found an energy conservation job, Christianity, and his wife, Suzie, whom he met at his own baptism. At first the couple lived in a 160-square-foot cabin he built that lacked electricity and running water — they added the outhouse on their first date — before “wussing out” and moving to an apartment for the winter.

When the Dartmouth job ended, Noronha sent out 178 letters seeking work without gaining one interview. After a day of fasting and prayer in which he asked for God's help, Noronha landed a job with a shoe sole manufacturer using computer assisted design (CAD/CAM).

With a group of Christian families who met at Dartmouth, the Noronhas moved to Madbury to start a church at the University of New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Noronha kept tinkering with CAD, designing prototypes and renting machining time at plants in Massachusetts at night. Turbocam started in his basement in 1985. He bought his first milling machine in 1987 and rented workspace in Dover a year later.

He sold his first part to General Motors, hand polishing it in the back of the car while Suzie drove to deliver it. By 1993, Turbocam had 25 employees.

In 2004, the company built its Barrington plant. Today Noronha gets offers to buy the company “every week,” but it's not for sale.

If Noronha had help building Turbocam, it came from a higher office than any found in Washington. Turbocam's mission is stated plainly: “Turbocam exists as a business for the purpose of honoring God, creating wealth for its employees, and supporting Christian service to God and people.”

“The company is an expression of God's blessing on us,” Noronha explains. Forty percent of the firm's revenue goes to salaries, and Noronha is justifiably proud of all the families who have bread on the table because of Turbocam.

“That's a bigger contribution to the community than all the government grants and programs,” Noronha observes.

If providing hundreds of jobs was Noronha's only contribution, that would be enough in terms of corporate responsibility. But Noronha applies profits to Christian works, including buying people out of slavery in Nepal — more than 100 in all, starting when he saw an advertisement offering humans for sale while on a business trip in 1998. The redemption process worked just like buying a used car — meet with the owner, negotiate a price, sign a bill of sale. In part through the attention Noronha brought to the practice, Nepal abolished human slavery in 2000.

Noronha didn't stop there.

He bought land for the freed.

His family and Turbocam employees support villages of former slaves by building schools, providing clean water, purchasing livestock, and arranging microloans. The company funds an orphanage in India and a host of local community organizations including the Boy Scouts, a crisis pregnancy center, a Christian organization at UNH, and Seacoast community events.

Along the way the Noronhas raised five accomplished sons, now aged 29 to 19. All were home schooled before attending Oyster River High School, where they excelled as distance runners. Three are Eagle Scouts. Two are Ivy Leaguers. One is a first lieutenant in the Marines, another a fourth-year cadet at West Point.

Not all his employees come to Turbocam for its faith-based mission. Noronha understands that for some, it's just a job, and that's fine with him. “They are hitchhiking and provide the gas, but I am driving the bus.

They are welcome on board, but must go in the direction I'm going.”

.

Fergus Cullen, a freelance columnist, can be reached at fergus@ferguscullen.com.


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