DynaBil diversifies client base by gaining government projects

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Things have been more than a bit turbulent for DynaBil Industries, a Coxsackie, N.Y.-based supplier of sheet metal assemblies and components to the aerospace industry.

The 9/11 attacks' impact on commercial aviation caused the company to lose about 30% of its business. But afterward, the U.S. Department of Defense had to ramp up for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and DynaBil was able to pick up new government business to help offset its commercial losses. Then, early last year, the U.S. Army pulled the plug on the RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter program that would have generated $12 million in annual revenue for DynaBil.

"It's definitely not an industry for the weak-hearted," said Hugh Quigley, DynaBil president. "We're a much better company because of the trials we've endured."

Just before 9/11, DynaBil was generating more than $18.5 million in annual sales and employed 130 workers. "Unfortunately, what undid us was that we had about 70% of our business wrapped up in commercial aviation," Quigley said. "Ideally we wanted to be diversified 50% commercial and 50% defense, but Boeing and other customers of ours had been building aircraft like crazy in the late 1990s and we let ourselves get unbalanced."

When the commercial sector plummeted, Quigley and his brother-in-law, Mike Grosso, with whom he co-founded DynaBil in 1977, decided not to lay off any workers. Instead, they reassigned their engineers to boost their sales force and went after more defense-oriented work.

Since their customers-Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Vaught Aircraft Co. and others-work in both the commercial and defense sectors, DynaBil didn't have to jump-start its defense business with cold calls. In fact, it knew these customers so well it saw an opportunity to rethink what it could offer them.

"We realized we could do some of their assembly work cheaper and faster and easier than they could," Quigley said. "Instead of supplying Sikor-sky with, say, a fabricated sheet metal cockpit frame for their Blackhawk helicopter, we could assemble the whole cockpit for them."

Company sales declined to about $13 million in 2002, Quigley said, but soon thereafter began to grow again. Then the Comanche project was canceled.

"It was a big blow, "Quigley said. "But we were able to rebound and have continued our growth trend, though it's not what we would have expected if the Comanche was still in place."

Recent news has Quigley even more optimistic. One of the company's main customers, Lockheed Martin, just won the contract to develop the Marine One presidential helicopter fleet. "Add to that our contributions to Boeing's new 787 program, and we've got good reason to think our future is very bright," said Quigley, who expects revenue to return to around $18.5 million by the end of this year.

The 787 program will give DynaBil international opportunities. "We already have our sales team working with new partners in Asia," Quigley said. "And we hope to increase our business through meetings with existing and prospective customers at the Paris Air Show-a very important venue-this summer." M

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