After winning several entrepreneurial competitions, including MassChallenge and Lever’s Berkshire Manufacturing Innovation Challenge, the founders of United Aircraft Technologies (UAT), Evaguel and Daryian Rhysing, knew that choosing the right place for their start-up would be essential. They would need a location with a support infrastructure that would enable them to grow.
“When we started the business in Pittsfield, we were three people. Now we are 13. A year from now, I expect that we will be 20, and in five years, we’ll be around the 50-person mark,” said Evaguel Rhysing, CEO and co-founder.
The veteran-owned, minority-owned and female-led company makes a small, revolutionary thermoplastic clamp that can replace clamps that can be found by the thousands in helicopters and aircraft. It could have located anywhere in the country. Their founding team was originally from Puerto Rico and Venezuela before they each moved to New York. Their first employees came from around the country. There were many potential sites.
“We chose the Berkshires and Pittsfield because we saw an opportunity for growth. It has become a center for innovation with emerging groups helping smaller businesses grow, such as Lever and the BIC (Berkshire Innovation Center) in Pittsfield,” she said. “And the other reason is the deep expertise in plastics with manufacturing and access to equipment and materials that is pretty close by.”
The company worked closely with Michael Coakley, Pittsfield’s Economic Development Manager, and the City’s Red Carpet Team, which includes economic development officials from City and State organizations, workforce development experts and educational leaders.
They put together a $300,000 incentive package from the City’s Economic Development Fund, a fund specifically intended to encourage business growth in Pittsfield. The fund cannot be found anywhere else in Massachusetts. The unique set of incentives included funds to help with relocation expenses, the purchase of testing equipment, job creation and the start of a new internship program.
Coakley and the Red Carpet Team also worked closely with the company to find precisely the right location to meet their needs. UAT needed a site that would meet stringent U.S. military requirements for access control. The building also needed to handle the vibrations from a testing machine that can rotate at 3600 RPM and make noises as loud as a helicopter.
The building they found on Newell Street, owned by Steve Murdock of Berkshire Building and Remodeling, met those requirements. The company also appreciated that the location is adjacent to a park which could be used for small drone testing.
“The openness and willingness of the leaders of the City to listen to and understand the needs of an entrepreneur is rare. They normally don’t give you the time of day or see the opportunity you can bring,” Evaguel said. “Pittsfield did. What sealed the deal for us was that the City leaders wanted us here and would work with us even with the limitations of a start-up.”
The new clamp is rapidly getting the attention of the military and commercial aircraft makers as well. The plastic in the UAT clamp is lightweight, so it improves fuel economy and enables aircraft to carry a larger payload, won’t short out wiring, and snaps together, eliminating repetitive stress injuries that come from turning metal screws.
More significantly, the clamp embeds a network of sensors to monitor, assess, diagnose, and collect data about electrical system performance in an aircraft. It can often predict and locate failures before they happen.