PLAINVILLE - U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5, toured Connecticut Tool and Manufacturing Tuesday, praising the aerospace company for its tremendous growth and for its efforts to train and hire large numbers of young people.
Mike Greenwald, general manager and vice president of the manufacturing company, gave Esty a tour of the factory floor and shared its recent successes. Founded in 1954, Connecticut Tool and Manufacturing is located on Corporate Avenue in Plainville and has another location in Farmington. They do a combination of 60 percent commercial and 40 percent military manufacturing, producing parts and components for airplanes and helicopters.
Greenwald explained that the company got its start in New Britain and moved to its Plainville location in 2001. Since Greenwald came on-board in 2005, it has grown from a $10 million company that employed 47 people to one that is expected to earn $50 million in 2017 and which employs 175 people between its two locations.
“The aerospace manufacturing industry is growing fast and we’re hiring a lot of folks,” said Greenwald. “We grew 15 percent last year, this year we expect to grow by 25 percent and in 2018 we expect to see even more growth. In the last 12 years, we have quadrupled sales. In the last 18 months we have purchased more equipment than the last 10 years combined. We have made several additions in that time, growing from a 16,000-square-foot facility in 2005 to 30,000 square feet in 2006 and 42,000 square feet today. ”
“Wow, you don’t hear a lot of that; that’s a great story,” said Esty.
Greenwald said this growth has occurred due to a ramp up of efficiency and companies like General Electric wanting to replace their current fleet of machines. This ramp up is expected to continue through 2020.
Another change in the aerospace manufacturing industry, Greenwald, explained, is that it has become more technology driven in the past couple years. To adjust to this, Connecticut Tool and Manufacturing has created apprenticeship programs for skilled workers.
“We have hired eight recent graduates from Manchester Community College, the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University,” he said. “We have also hired one student from Goodwin Technical High School in Bristol and we plan to hire another student at Bristol Tech when he turns 17.”
In addition to Esty, Greenwald said Connecticut Tool and Manufacturing has received visits from U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and state Rep. William Petit, R-22, when he was campaigning.
“It’s nice when legislators come out to see who we are and what we do,” said Greenwald. “She’s welcome to come talk to any people out on the floor. We’re proud of what we work on here.”
Greenwald showed Esty several components in production and gave a full tour of the factory floor, which included a “Moonshine Shop” where the company produces and tests its own assembly equipment, a 3-D printer and a super clean line which Greenwald explained can clean contaminants down to 30 microns. The building also contains a small exercise room and locker rooms for employee wellness programs, a cafeteria and a training center with computers and a smart-board.
Teams in each area of the factory come up with their own names for the production area, such as “Littlefoot” and “Yogi.” Employees also have their own individualized development programs, which Greenwald said spurs them to work harder. Machines throughout the factory floor were set up on wheels, so they could be moved around with ease. Additionally, Greenwald said that employees were responsible for overseeing several machines throughout the manufacturing process.
Esty said that she was impressed by the program and by how many young workers the company employed.
“I go to a lot of manufacturers and this is the youngest group of any plant that I have been to in the last four years,” she said. “Most of those that I go to, the employees all have gray hair and are between 50 and 60 years old. This doesn’t happen by accident. It is a real testament to the fact that there is an interested talent pool out there, but that you need to make a conscious effort to reach out to them. We need to grow our own talent here in Connecticut.”
For more information on Connecticut Tool and Manufacturing, call 860-846-0800 or visit aerospacecomponents.org/cttool.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.