By Mark Hallum
De Blasio administration officials spread their wings for City Hall in Your Borough, an initiative by Mayor Bill de Blasio to govern from each borough, by touring the facility of S&L Aerospace Metals in College Point.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and EDC President James Patchett were shown around the expanding facility that manufactures key components for both military and private aircraft. S&L is not only notable for keeping its base in Queens, when many industries have decided to leave the city altogether, but for building an additional 34,000 square feet to the manufacturing plant which will allow the company to add 20 high-paying advanced manufacturing jobs.
“I’m so pleased to see a business like this, not only want to come to New York, but want to stay in New York,” Glen said in reference to the perception that companies are looking to other cities to do business in. “The workforce [at S&L] are New Yorkers and incredibly diverse. It kind of puts an end to the myth that people don’t want to build a business in New York or that this kind of investment in a factory doesn’t work here. In any way the city government can help these businesses expand, that’s a job for us.”
Executive Vice President Ted Varvatsas led the tour in which he showed the manufacturing process of making landing gear for Black Hawk helicopters, used to transport military personnel in theaters of combat, and also a hydraulic component that controls the pitch of the wing on the F-35 fighter jet, a highly controversial development project for the military because of the price tag that comes with each plane.
“This is very complicated,” Varvatsas said, referring to the F-35 part. “We get all of the most complicated jobs that are out there and that helps us tremendously. If they want a cup made, I won’t recommend they come to S&L. My customers know that.”
The floor of the facility is filled with milling machines and operators doing complex work. Technicians work diligently making sure every aspect of the object they are molding meets exact measurements. Buckets of aluminum shavings are situated near machines showing just how much work goes into the process of producing aircraft parts.
One employee, Bill Hans, has worked at S&L for over 40 years but recently put in his retirement. He emigrated from Germany in the 1960s, and spent time in the U.S. Army – which stationed him in his home country – before leaving and getting involved in the aerospace industry.
Many workers in the S&L ranks are immigrants from Asia and Latin America.
According to Varvatsas, employees are hired on and stay long term. The only cause for turnover the company is currently experiencing is from retirees.
S&L started in Brooklyn in 1947, and in the 1950s and ‘60s, began moving into the defense industry. For much of the time it has been in business, S&L has had a facility in Maspeth. When it came time to move in 2007, the company made the determination to stay in Queens and limit layoffs by staying within a 10-mile radius, according to Varvatsas.
The company currently has over 100 employees and 55,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall