Biz Buzz: Alabama firm buys SLO maker of drones

Chandler/May Inc. of Huntsville, Ala. has bought AeroMech Engineering of San Luis Obispo, a producer of small unmanned aircraft known as drones.

The Alabama firm also specializes in unmanned vehicles and so-called command-and-control computing systems.

“The deal is good for jobs and helps sustainability of companies in our area,” said Mike Manchak, executive director of the Economic Vitality Corp. of San Luis Obispo County.

Cal Poly graduates Thomas Akers and Norm Timbs founded AeroMech in 1999 with less than $1,000 of startup cash.

The duo could not be reached for comment, but Akers has described his company’s unmanned airplanes in earlier interviews as like “an eye in the sky” for soldiers and bases that need protection from enemy ambushes and attacks.

The company also makes target drones — jet-engine-powered versions of unmanned air vehicles — that are used to test radar systems and missiles.

In 2008, it employed 85 people, claimed $10 million in revenue, and occupied 45,000 square feet of space at 999 Ricardo Court in San Luis Obispo.

Akers has credited his company’s success to its proximity to the Camp Roberts military installation in the North County, Cal Poly and the San Luis Obispo business environment.

Akers will still lead AeroMech Engineering, according to an announcement by Chandler-May.

That company has not mentioned whether AeroMech would relocate or whether it would make any changes in San Luis Obispo.

Executives at Chandler/May and its investment partner, Arlington Capital Partners — a Washington, D.C.-area private equity group — couldn’t be reached for comment.

— Melanie Cleveland

Avon store opens in Paso Robles

An Avon retail store has opened in Paso Robles, part of the national beauty products company’s continued expansion beyond door-to-door and catalog sales.

The store in the Highland Center, at 205 Oak Hill Road, Suite 103, is one of 150 such retailers around the nation, according to Miranda Battenburg, an Avon independent sales representative and the shop’s manager.

The idea behind having a store, as opposed to just a catalog, is to give customers the chance to see products before they buy them, according to company representatives.

Based in New York, Avon has $10 billion in annual sales and markets to women in more than 100 countries through 5.4 million sales representatives, according to a company announcement.

Local business owners are invited to attend a resource program from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. today at the Atascadero Lake Pavilion.

The event features speakers from the Atascadero Economic Development Office, Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, UC Merced Small Business Development Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration, who will discuss business options.

Information on stimulus opportunities from the city of Atascadero and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be discussed. To register for the free event, visit or call 466-2044.

— AnnMarie Cornejo