Ayotte visits, offers to assist small area defense contractor

NASHUA – A local company with defense contracts has run into a few problems getting its equipment into the field, and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte paid it a visit on Thursday to hear employee feedback and offer her support.

Ayotte said she wants to improve the “defense acquisition process” because many times the equipment paid for by the government takes far too long to get in the hands of the troops for use. It often gets caught up in the “bureaucratic process,” she said.

Employees at Windmill International Inc. were proud to show Ayotte their KA-10 product, a satellite-receiving system that American troops can use to pick up video feeds from Afghanistan. It weighs less than 20 pounds all packed up, and the company’s chief engineer, David Martin, said there’s “nothing else like it” on the market today.

“This is an important product that our troops can use,” Ayotte said. “We need to be able to get it in theater faster.”

Windmill International has provided program management, engineering, training, technology, and software development for the defense industry since 1988. The company doubled its staff to about 130 after Sept. 11, 2001, when it was called upon to produce equipment for the Transportation Security Administration’s new security scanners in airports.

Windmill International has since dropped down to 85 employees due to the recession. Rebecca Liubakka, contracts manager at Windmill International said 26 of those employees live and work in New Hampshire.

The company’s headquarters is in Nashua, across from Hayward’s Ice Cream on Robinson Road. Employees complete all design work and prototype assembly at its facility in Hollis, near the Pepperell, Mass., line.

Employees also test products and simulate satellite reception at the Hollis facility.

Ayotte met with Windmill International representatives in Washington, D.C., last month and said she was interested in visiting the company to see their products. The small New Hampshire business has been around for more than 20 years, and Ayotte said she was impressed with its success and inspired by the feedback of employees.

Liubakka said the senator can also help the company continue to receive funding through the Small Business Innovative Research program.

“We’re at the tail end of one program and interested in continuing it,” she said. “The SBIR program is great for New Hampshire. It takes you from this very let’s-think-about-it phase to a commercial production setting.”

Martin led the demonstration of the KA-10 system outside the facility on Thursday to show Ayotte what the company has produced. He said he was happy to get a chance to talk to her about some of the company’s concerns.

“It’s always nice to be able to say that to someone who can influence the process,” Martin said.

Ayotte shook hands with employees and answered their questions. She also talked about her goals to help small businesses and offer her support to Windmill International.

“The senator has made it a priority to support small businesses and, as a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, she is working to reduce federal red tape and other burdensome regulations that have a negative impact on our small businesses,” said Ayotte’s press secretary, Liz Johnson, in an e-mail.

Ayotte also met with Milford electronic contract manufacturer Cirtronics later Thursday afternoon. She visited Fairgrounds Elementary School in Nashua on Friday morning.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com.