When Fredon Corp. celebrated its 41st anniversary last year, it was named to Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing small businesses in the U.S. The national magazine noted the Mentor company increased revenue from $9.2 million in 2006 to nearly $12 million in 2009.
Not too shabby when you consider Fredon’s co-founder, Roger Sustar, started the company with a $7,000 loan.
Fredon manufactures thousands of precision-machined parts and assemblies for military defense contractors like Boeing and Northrop Grumman that make missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, for diversified industrial giants like General Electric that manufactures locomotive train engines, and for medical device companies like Mentor-based Steris that produces infection control products.
The company is now poised to open a new chapter of growth with plans to move into a new 65,000-square-foot plant at 8990 Tyler Boulevard.
Although the plant is undergoing interior renovations, part of it is housing a new Federal Aviation Administration 145 operations. This FAA designation means Fredon is certified to recondition and repair parts for Sikorsky helicopters, the workhorse aircrafts for the U.S. military. Fredon also received its European certification to recondition and repair parts for military helicopters. By spring of 2012, Sustar is aiming to move all of his manufacturing operations to the Tyler Boulevard plant.
“Everything will be under one roof,” said Sustar. “Plus, we have nearly 11 acres to accommodate any future growth needs, which we’re really excited about.”
Sustar decided to expand into reconditioning helicopter parts after meeting Andy LaTourette, who has extensive experience in the aerospace component repair business.
“I saw this as a good opportunity, and if we do this well it will lead us to even more good opportunities to manufacture aerospace parts,” said Sustar, who hired LaTourette to manage the new business unit. LaTourette is the brother of Congressman Steven R. LaTourette (R-Bainbridge Township).
Expanding his aerospace business may turn out to be a good bet for Sustar.
Despite the recent Great Recession and the subsequent sluggish economic recovery, the military aerospace industries, and more recently the commercial aviation industry, has been booming. For example, in 2003 Ohio manufacturers exported $344 million of aircraft parts. In 2009, that export number skyrocketed to $3.8 billion, according to the Aerospace Industries Association.
Although Sustar is concerned about the impact of proposed defense budget cuts, he maintains a cautiously optimistic attitude.
“The cool thing about helicopters is that they can last forever if they are maintained and the parts are replaced,” reflected Sustar. “I think for the U.S. military, it will cost them less to maintain and repair helicopters than to buy new ones.”
Sustar is humble about his company's achievements.
"It's not me," he said. "It's all the people around here who make this company successful."