Did you know there’s an aerospace factory right here in New York City? Along with the NYCEDC and New York City government officials, we recently got a tour of S&L Aerospace Metals in College Point, Queens.. The company has been a part of New York City’s economy since it was founded as a bicycle manufacturing shop in Brooklyn in 1945. Slowly but surely, it began to transform its focus to the defense industry, moving to Long Island and then back to New York where the company has grown to become one of the leading industry members in the production of premiere hydraulics for both commercial and military aircraft parts in the United States.
Along with the United States government, S&L’s clientele also includes Boeing, Raytheon, Helicopter Support, Sikorsky Aircraft and several private companies. S&L does the majority of the processes for the parts in house, though excluding some of the more sophisticated pieces, such as certain parts of the Sikorsky “Black Hawk” helicopter, which Executive Vice President Ted Varvatas says leave the facility for upwards of 20 different processes.
“We get the most complicated jobs that are out there and that helps us tremendously,” Varatas says as he mentions F-35 actuators– a part of the newest generation of aircrafts. “If you (a company) want a cup made– or something small, I wouldn’t recommend they come to us and my customers know that. But anything that’s complex, they know where to come to and they come to S&L.” But as specialists in the world of complexity, designing brings in “a whole other layer of liability,” says Varatas. They instead work mostly with specs given to them by the various aircraft companies. All operations in the facility are human operated, including things such as shipping and receiving, turning, milling, masking, grinding and something called the “deburring” department, among others.
Although S&L has grown far beyond what the company was originally intended to do, there was never any question, says Varvatas, about staying in New York City despite offers to move elsewhere in the United States. A big part of that, he says, has to do with their employees. Many of S&L’s 91 employees are “foreign born, do not have advanced degrees and live within a four-mile radius,” according to an S&L press release. As a result, Varatas says, many of the employees are fully trained by the company and tend to stay with S&L throughout their career.
“When we left Maspeth in 2007, we were courted by other states such as New Jersey, but we felt our most valuable resource was our employees, so we decided to stay,” Varatas says.
One such employee, Hans Rinn, had been with the company for 45 years before retiring just his past week. Following the company from Brooklyn to Long Island to Queens, the former World War II veteran says he’s watched the company grow in a way that has only been been for the better.
S&L employee Hans Rinn speaks with Deputy Mayor Glenn about his time with the company after Tuesday’s tour.
A two-pronged expansion for S&L– including both renovations to their existing facility as well as the construction of a completely new building– is already underway. The expectation is that by the end of the expansion, 34,000 more square feet of useable space will be added to the already 55,000 square-foot facility along with the creation of approximately 20 new jobs.
The expansion plan itself was made possible by a partnership S&L formed with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Together they worked to sell the two empty lots behind the current S&L facility to the company as an addition to Mayor De Blasio’s “New York Works” plan– a series of 25 initiatives that the mayor and his team hope will create 100,000 good-wage jobs (at least $50,000 per year) over the course of the next 10 years. Many of these initiatives include an investment in technology spaces such as cybersecurity, investing in CUNY computer science graduates and an augmented and virtual reality sector, alongside the more traditional forms of job creation in freight and the industrial and manufacturing sector.
The goal of the plan is to strengthen New York’s middle class as well as show that New York City is still a viable place for businesses. However, despite the pledge for the creation of 100,000, the current list of initiatives only specifically outlines were 40,000 of those jobs will come from. Many of these initiatives instead are set-up to operate more like a frame-work for the city and partnering businesses to work within – the idea being to aim for the spaces in the job market that have been deemed by the city to most likely produce the most lucrative results while still providing the flexibility needed to work within the rapidly evolving technology spaces.
The city’s support of S&L in part demonstrates its commitment to keeping industrial and manufacturing jobs here in New York, something that may halt the tide of residential development that is sure to come to the College Point waterfront in the near future.
Check out the full plan and a list of the various job resources for workers the mayor’s office has put into place on the New York Works official website.
Next Check Out The Top 10 Secrets of NYC’s Department of Sanitation or take a look at Remnants of a 1960 Park Slope Plane Crash Hidden in Plain Sight in Brooklyn. Get in touch with the author: @Erika_A_Stark.