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February 19. 2013 6:21PM

Airmar is doubling its space, and adding workers in Milford


Josh Wadleigh, right, 29, has worked with Airmar since he was 16. The company prides itself on low turnover and is looking to add at least 10 positions immediately. (SIMN RIOS PHOTO)

MILFORD - Airmar Technology, the Milford company that specializes in ultrasonic sensor devices, posted a 24 percent revenue increase in 2012 over the previous year. And it's looking to hire.

Matt Boucher, Airmar's vice president and chief operating officer, said the numbers reflect a long-term investment in research and development that has averaged 15 percent of sales over the past decade.

"The continued growth of Airmar in the U.S. and international markets has allowed us to expand our operations to best fit our needs," Boucher said.

"By building all our products here in New Hampshire, we have the distinct advantage of having complete control of the production process and can react quickly to design changes and quality control."

Airmar's growth has prompted the company to expand, with a 72,000-square-foot facility in the works across from the existing headquarters.

The company employs more than 200 people in its Milford factory, from office to industrial jobs. With the addition of Airmar East - which effectively doubles the company's square footage - Airmar is actively recruiting to fill positions for engineers, project managers and support staff.

Boucher said it's tough to find competent workers in the area. Because of that, some come out of retirement, and others work overtime almost every week.

One supervisor, Josh Wadleigh of Wilton, works 11-hour days six days a week. He's 29 years old and has been working at the company since he was 16.

"We have an extremely loyal employee base," Boucher said, walking through the factory. "Once they come, they're not allowed to leave."

The company's product line includes ultrasonic transducers, flow sensors, WeatherStation instruments and electronic compasses. They are used in a range of applications, from fishing and navigation to meteorology, surveying, level measurement and proximity sensing.

Boucher said the company's recent focus is on moving beyond marine industries. Where Airmar supplies devices for all Yamaha and Kawasaki jet skis, the move to outfit John Deere tractors with Airmar instruments is symbolic of the company's growth.

Boucher said the WX Series Ultrasonic WeatherStation is the type of product that has allowed the company to expand. The device - a weather monitoring solution for agricultural, environmental monitoring, and renewable energy industries - was a finalist in the New Hampshire High Technology Council's 2012 Product of the Year competition.

The newest technology is called CHIRP, or compressed high-intensity radar pulse. CHIRP allows fishermen to differentiate bait fish from predators, for example, such as tuna and marlin.

Boucher said it sends out sound waves and a band of frequencies which provides a greater level of sensitivity and thus greater detail.

"This is one of the reasons we're really growing," he said of the new product, which was released last year. "It's kind of like going from a tube TV to a high-definition TV. It's a huge amount more sensitivity, with signal processing that you can actually see a lot clearer."

Boucher said with the high cost of sailing a large fishing vessel, the significant cost of the homing technology is considered practical by fishermen.

He noted that the factory does not utilize a lot of automated equipment.

"That's because in any given year we probably come up with 100 new products a year," he said. "That means that you have to constantly change your equipment, switch what you're doing, start something new all the time. What's important about the skill set of everyone here is that they have to be very nimble. They have to be able to switch from one thing to another."

The family-owned company has been in business for more than 30 years. The team of scientists, multidisciplinary engineers, designers and technicians lead the company's research and development, creating customizable products for an array of industries.

Airmar's Milford plant features acoustic test tanks, environmental test chambers and injection molding equipment. The 210 employees there work in engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing.

Airmar's distribution offices are in Lake City, South Carolina and Saint Malo, France.

srios@newstote.com



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