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Detroit Chamber Introduces Michigan Small Business To Boeing

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CBSNews.com / AP photo

CBSNews.com / AP photo

STERLING HEIGHTS — Nearly 100 Detroit-area companies gathered at the Macomb-OU INCubator at Velocity Center on 18 Mile Road in Sterling Heights Monday to meet with officials of Boeing Co. in hopes of becoming suppliers to the aeronautics giant.

Representatives from Boeing’s Seattle, St. Louis, Mo. and Los Angeles-based defense, commercial, technology and global research teams will be participating in the “Boeing Partnerships Forum” hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Connection Point program.

The goal of the event is to help Boeing explore partnerships with Michigan small businesses. It is the fourth such event with Boeing hosted by Connection Point since October 2011.

In addition to presentations by Boeing representatives, the event featured a keynote address by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

Attendees and Boeing officials all pronounced the meetings valuable.

“We are here to get to deeper areas inside Boeing,” said Robert Folts, COO of Lake Orion-based Manufacturing & Industrial Technologies Inc. “Right now we supply engineering resources for Boeing, staffing, and tooling for space systems. We are here to get more business on the aircraft side. This is very good for us.”

Troy-based X-Ray Industries Inc. is a family owned business that’s been around since 1941, providing non-destructive testing of aircraft and aerospace components with — you guessed it — x-rays and other means. Eric Thams, vice president of sales and marketing and one of five siblings who own the company equally, said his company is also seeking to boost its level of business with Boeing, including supplying complete components.

Chesterfield Township-based Burtek Enterprises Inc. has been a supplier to the defense industry since its founding 25 years ago, including aircraft and electronics components. “Our goal with Boeing is to brief them on our capabilities and support them on current and future programs related to defense,” said Lyle Hindman, Burtek’s director of business development.

Boeing officials said they were pleased with the turnout and the quality of companies represented.

“One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that you never know where you’ll find what I call a nugget, a really good small business supplier,” said Raul Alvarado Jr., program manager for networks and space system at Boeing and a 40-year veteran of the company.

Asked for examples Monday, Alvarado said he was “very impressed” with the design optimization software developed by East Lansing-based Red Cedar Technology.

Alvarado said Monday’s visit was piggybacked on Boeing presence at this week’s National Veterans Conference in Detroit and came at the request of Trevor Pawl, program manager of Connection Point.

Pawl said the Boeing meetings have been good for Michigan business — the last one, involving a secret military program, produced 30 deals for the 200 companies that attended.

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