San Luis Obispo

Biz Buzz: AeroMech moving to bigger complex

Started in a garage, engineering firm for unmanned aircrafts now employs 100

November 26, 2010 

Worldwide aircraft defense engineering and manufacturing firm AeroMech Engineering Inc. is moving its San Luis Obispo headquarters into a larger spot on the city’s south side.

Eyewear manufacturer Dioptics previously occupied the sprawling, roughly 116,500-square-foot complex visible off Highway 101 to the east. It has about 37,000 square feet of office and 79,000 square feet of high-bay warehouse space.

AeroMech signed a lease Monday with Vachell Lane Properties LLC to expand into the space at 125 Venture Drive, according to the company.

AeroMech is currently located on Ricardo Court, where it’s been about five years. It plans to close that location after its move.

Earlier this year, it was rumored that the privately held AeroMech planned to take over the Venture Drive site, but company officials declined to comment at the time.

The move is now slated for February 2011 after construction improvements are made.

AeroMech is a homegrown business founded in a San Luis Obispo garage by Cal Poly graduates Thomas Akers and Norm Timbs in 1999 with less than $1,000 of startup cash. Before it moved onto Ricardo Court, it operated in a small facility on Fiero Lane.

Akers remains involved as chairman of AeroMech’s board of directors.

In 2008, AeroMech employed 85 people, claimed $10 million in revenue and operated in 45,000 square feet. AeroMech expanded during 2009 and 2010, increasing its staff this year by more than 10 percent, said Thomas Brake, AeroMech’s director of engineering. It now has 100 employees.

Company officials said future growth is expected, but President and Chief Executive Officer Jay McConville declined to disclose specific numbers on the anticipated new hires, as well as the firm’s current revenue and profit figures. AeroMech will use the new space “to improve its operation while expanding production capacity in response to new business,” according to a statement.

McConville attributed the new business mainly to its already-released long endurance aircraft vehicle called the “Fury.” The firm will also continue to focus on designing and manufacturing unmanned aircrafts and the mission management and control systems needed to fly them.

AeroMech designed and produced the U.S. Air Force’s first small aircraft to be used without a flight crew, according to the company, and has since delivered more than 1,500 aircraft to U.S. and allied forces.

In September 2008, Alabama-based Chandler/May Inc. bought AeroMech. The Alabama firm specializes in unmanned ground vehicles and command-and-control computing systems.

— Tonya Strickland

A.G. chamber among first on phone app

The Arroyo Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce is one of the first 75 chambers in the nation to promote its members via the MyChamberApp, a national smartphone application that allows users to find local businesses, a calendar of events and discounts being offered by local businesses.

“We realize it is important to stay ahead of the technology curve. Providing this mobile venue is beneficial not just for our members but for the community as a whole,” said Judith Bean, president and CEO of the Arroyo Grande chamber. To download the app, visit the chamber’s website at www.agchamber.com and click on the link to MyChamberApp.

— Stacy Daniel

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