Nautel Plans U.S. Expansion

Manufacturer Targets Quincy Office as Next Step in Development
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Manufacturer Targets Quincy Office as Next Step in Development

QUINCY, Ill. Broadcast transmitter manufacturer Nautel has recently advertised in the daily newspaper in this southern Illinois city hoping to recruit sales and support staff in advance of opening an office here.

Quincy is a historic center of radio broadcast manufacturing and is currently home to two major broadcast transmitter manufacturers. Both Harris Broadcast Communications and Broadcast Electronics Inc. have research and manufacturing facilities here, an area long considered to be rich with RF industry talent.

Nautel is a Canadian company that also maintains an office and production facility in Bangor, Maine.

The recruitment ads spurred speculation from industry observers that Nautel was eyeing a move to the Quincy area.

"We are planning to open a sales and support office in the Quincy area, but it is premature to put a date on the opening of an office," said Nautel Marketing Manager John Whyte.

"There are only a couple of centers of expertise for RF skill sets anywhere and arguably the largest is Quincy. We want to tap into the talent pool. We are looking for support staff and sales engineers," said Whyte.

Whyte said Nautel is not currently considering locating a manufacturing plant in Quincy.

Suitable candidates

Nautel, which manufactures transmitters for AM and FM broadcast, navigation, industrial and space-based applications, is scouting potential office locations in Quincy and expected to interview job applicants in late September, Whyte said.

"We are investing in engineers, which we hope translates into more innovations, more award-winning products and more support for our customers."

Nautel officials said the company has stepped up efforts to grab a larger share of the broadcast transmitter market since the 2006 appointment of Peter Conlon as president and chief executive officer.

"This is all part our efforts to grow our transmitter business. We have made major investments the past two years, from tripling our sales staff to substantially increasing the numbers on our engineering staff. While others have been pulling back because of softness in the market, we actually have taken the contrarian view, which has resulted in a significant up tick in sales volume for us," Whyte said.

Nautel, a privately owned company, does not release sales figures or earning statements.

The recruitment ad, which ran on successive August weekends in the Quincy Herald Whig, specifically asks for sales engineers, customer service technicians and sales representatives, to be based in the Quincy area.

"We are looking for people to keep in Quincy. Honestly, given technology today, where people are located physically is less important than the talent they bring," Whyte said.

In recent years Nautel has pursued industry executives more aggressively and hired some notable RF industry talent, including Gary Liebisch, former product manager at Harris, and Chuck Kelly, former head of international sales for Broadcast Electronics. In April it named Gerardo Vargas to lead the Latin America sales office. He is a former sales executive with AEQ.

Nautel is headquartered in Hackett's Cove, Nova Scotia, where it has its manufacturing center. The company's Maine facility also has production capability and houses customer support and sales operations for the United States.

"We have become a truly North American company. We consider both the United States and Canada to be domestic markets for us. We sell to over 168 countries worldwide," Whyte said.

"We are certainly not doing this to impact those companies in a negative way. The reality is that Quincy is the center of RF excellence. The talent we are looking for is in Quincy," Whyte said.

The broadcast manufacturing industry has a long history in Quincy, a city of approximately 40,000 residents that rests along the eastern banks of the Mississippi River. In the 1920s the Gates family established the Gates Radio Company. Harris Intertype Corp eventually acquired the company in the 1950s. Harris continues to operate its RF transmission manufacturing business here along with sales and administrative support.

Former Gates executive Larry Cervon moved Broadcast Electronics in 1977 from Maryland to Quincy, expanding the city's eminence as an RF center. Broadcast Electronics employs more than 100 people at its Quincy headquarters, which includes manufacturing and research and development at its 88,000 square-foot building. BE last year noted the 30th anniversary of its own move to Quincy.

Quincy also was the site of a Motorola manufacturing facility, which closed in the mid-1970s.

Harris and Broadcast Electronics declined to comment on Nautel's expansion plans.