East Valley companies scooped up three of the five Manufacturer of the Year awards presented Tuesday night by the Arizona Association of Industries.
The awards, which recognizes Arizona companies for their innovation, were presented at the association’s annual awards dinner at the Arizona Biltmore resort.
The East Valley winners included Freescale Semiconductor in the large manufacturing category and Mesa-based Silverado Cable in the small manufacturing category. Also Chandler-based Pilot Engineering won the Rising Star Award given to a very small manufacturer.
Two Tucson firms also were honored. Global Solar Energy won in the medium company category and AGM Container Controls tied with Silverado in the small manufacturing category.
“All of the companies were started relatively recently, and their management philosophy is customer focused with civic involvement,” said Karen Montoya, spokeswoman for the AAI.
After more than 50 years as a part of Motorola, Freescale was spun off as a stand-alone company in July 2004. The privately held company has two manufacturing and research plants in Chandler and Tempe and more than 3,000 local employees.
With 2006 sales of $4.6 billion, the company’s chips can be found in such familiar brands as Motorola cell phones, Sony electronics, Whirlpool appliances and BMW, Ford, Hyundai and General Motors cars.
Among the innovations developed by Freescale engineers in the East Valley during the past year were a new type of memory chip that is fast and has virtually unlimited endurance, and a sensor that can detect if a device like a cell phone or laptop computer is dropped and will instantly shut the system down to minimize damage.
Silverado Cable, 1840 W. First Ave., Mesa, makes custom cable assemblies and wiring harnesses for aerospace and defense companies. Among its customers is The Boeing Co., which uses the company’s cables for the C-17 military cargo plane and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet.
The company was founded in 1994 by brothers Robert and Mitch Simpson, who had previously been producing wire assemblies locally for a German company.
“My partner in Germany want all manufacturing moved to Ireland or Taiwan, so we decided to start on our own,” said Robert Simpson, president of the company. “We started with five people, and for the first two years we lived on our credit cards.”
The company tried specializing on the medical instrument and telecom markets but eventually found its niche in aerospace and the military, which favor U.S. suppliers.
“Cables are the last commodity manufactured by human hands, and with the human element we focus on quality,” he said.
Pilot Engineering, a small business with 19 employees at 1535 N. Dobson Road, Chandler, focuses on working with specialty metals such as titanium for aerospace and defense work.
The shop forms, welds and assembles parts for the Abrams tank and military and commercial aircraft made by Boeing and Airbus, said General Manager Robert Aker. One of its components made for a missile that is part of the national missile defense system is crucial to the operation of the missile, he said.
“If our part fails, the whole missile fails,” he said.
With the aerospace and defense industries booming, Pilot Engineering is in a growth spurt and plans to add several people a month for the next few months, he said.
“We have been turning away work for lack of employees,” he said. “With a war going on, they (Defense officials) need a lot of components.”