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Aviation suppliers see prospects in Vermont
February 18, 2011
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  • By Dan D’Ambrosio

    February 11, 2011

    SOUTH BURLINGTON — John Herald, global sourcing leader for plastics for GE Healthcare, told an airplane hangar full of Vermont business people Thursday he’s always looking for ideas to give him a competitive edge supplying hospitals with everything from blood pressure cuffs to CT scan machines.

    Herald made his remarks at an open house sponsored by the Vermont Chamber Aerospace and Aviation Association at Heritage Aviation in South Burlington. Herald was invited to the gathering because he uses many of the same materials as the aerospace and aviation industries: high-tech composites and plastics, including ceramics.

    Herald said he buys $150 million worth of the materials annually, and that 70 percent of what he buys comes from the United States.

    “I’ve got about 30 unique processes for manufacturing and I’m always looking to gain a competitive edge,” Herald said. “My door is always open.”

    Bill Berg, senior vice president of aerospace and defense at Vermont Composites in Bennington, attended the open house Thursday. He said his company already sells imaging tables to Herald, as well as ammunition containers for F15 fighters to General Dynamics. Vermont Composites has total annual sales of about $30 million. Berg said he found the open house to be “very encouraging.”

    “They bring in people we wouldn’t normally be exposed to, big decision makers,” Berg said. “We can get on their radar and then it’s our responsibility to pursue leads.”

    Also speaking at the open house were: Robert Schafrik, general manager, materials and process engineering, GE Aviation; Chris Sheppard, government relations, USAF programs, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems; and John Veilleux, manager, advance manufacturing engineering, General Dynamics. Former gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie moderated the open house.

    Before the open house, Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, and the members of the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, which Illuzzi chairs, met with Berg and other Vermont business people to discuss ways lawmakers can help bring more high-tech aerospace and aviation business to the state.

    Berg said he told the committee Vermont needs more qualified subcontractors. He has a hard time finding subcontractors who are qualified to work on the projects presented by companies such as GE and General Dynamics.