GarKenyon Thrives as Aerospace Manufacturer

GarKenyon’s 60 years of experience as a supplier to the aviation industry has been enhanced by a growth in its engineering department, developing new products to meet customer demands. A notable, recent piece of business is the production of valves and spoilers for the privately funded spaceship company, Virgin Galactic, a company on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline.

GarKenyon’s focus and expertise is in the design, fabrication, assembly and testing of components for the aviation and defense industries.  The Naugatuck company produces hydromechanical, electromechanical and mechanical parts and assemblies. From master brake cylinders, shuttle valves, restrictors and shutoff valves to main landing gear door actuators and potable water fill-valves, GarKenyon products can be found in military aircraft, long-range business jets, the KC46 tanker, a Russian commercial jet and more. GarKenyon prides itself on technical excellence, responsiveness and innovation.

The company’s roots date back to the 1950s when Kenyon Instrument merged with Gar Precision’s valve division in Brewster, New York. After dominating the military market with products on attack, fighter and transport aircraft and expanding into the general and business aviation market, GarKenyon was acquired by SAF Industries in 2003 and moved to Naugatuck.  In 2011, SAF Industries acquired General Pneumatics Company of New Jersey, which has broadened GarKenyon’s capabilities and offerings, including a product line and improvements for inflatable devices for air slides and missiles.

Chairman & CEO Steve A. Fournier says the company has seen a 25 percent growth in 2013 and 20 percent so far in 2014. He attributes the growth to the development of new products and an expanded presence with their sales offices – one in Sarasota, Florida, and a new one in Palmdale, California. He also noted that the company conducts process improvement events to ensure production is running efficiently.

Involvement with the Naugatuck and Waterbury Regional Chambers and their Manufacturers Council has been a good affiliation, according to Fournier.  He mentioned Richard DuPont, of Resource Development Associates and Chair of the Council, as a good liaison and contact person for manufacturing issues.  Fournier also appreciates Chamber lobbyist Armando Paolino, of Paolino Public Affairs Corp., paying attention to the needs of manufacturers. “The Chamber is doing a good job,” he said, “The networking has helped us connect with resources for such areas as labor development and recruitment.”

GarKenyon has also had a good track record with interns, some of whom have been hired in permanent positions. The company was able to hire two engineering interns (one male and one female) from Central Connecticut State University through the aid of the Connecticut Innovations Program. “We put them right to work,” said Fournier. “They see first-hand how valves work, they help improve designs and they make customer calls.”

Fournier expects the company to continue growing because of the nature of what they do. He noted that it is sometimes four to five years before they are paid for a part, because of research, development, design and then production.  However, once that initial investment is made, the company could be producing the part for many years to come.