Gadgets move Gloversville from leather past

Startup AirJet boosts local manufacturing

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
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Jim Evans assembles Lawn Spiders at AirJet's Gloversville facility.
Jim Evans assembles Lawn Spiders at AirJet's Gloversville facility.

— In coming months, both Sears and Kmart will sell two consumer products with a manufacturing connection to Gloversville, and neither product is leather-related.

The nationwide retailers will sell a plastic shovel that attaches to a leaf blower and can be used to blow away snow as well as an attachment to most lawn mowers that cleans the undercarriage continuously as it mulches.

AirJet Technologies, a startup company based at 11 Forest St., home of the Curtin-Hebert Co., developed both products. It is manufacturing the lawn mower attachment, which it calls the “Lawn Spider,” in Gloversville, using labor from Lexington. The shovel, called the “AirJet Shovel,” is made in Massachusetts.

AirJet President Dave Agee said the company hopes to sell 50,000 each of the Lawn Spider and the AirJet Shovel, which retail at $19.99 and $29.99, respectively.

As the company ramps up production, it will add to the Gloversville-based staff, which currently numbers seven, Agee said. “I am hoping for large numbers. We are gearing up right now as we speak,” he said. “We have literally sold thousands and we have not started marketing it.”

Sales through Sears and its Kmart subsidiary are just the start for the products. “We sell it through other distributors and we have had interest from other box companies,” Agee said.

Not bad for a company that did not exist two years ago, Agee said. “We have been pretty successful lately and we want to stay in Fulton County,” he said.

Agee formed AirJet Technologies in 2010 through a partnership with the three owners of Curtin-Hebert, a 130-year-old company that manufactures precision grinding machines. AirJet Technologies and Curtin-Hebert remain separate companies. Agee and the owners of Curtin-Hebert, however, are major stockholders in AirJet and Curtin-Herbert will make most of the AirJet products.

“The owner of Curtin-Hebert sold the company to three employees and six months after that happened, I approached them. They were looking to diversify,” Agee said.

Agee also operates another company called AG Sales Solutions, which he formed 10 years ago to work with inventors and patent attorneys. The company takes ideas to market. Prior to this, he worked in sales for a large company. He moved to the area 15 years ago with his wife, who works at GE.

AirJet has a third project, its first, called the “AirJet Plow System.” The system, which starts at $35,000, uses huge turbines to remove snow and debris. Recently, the Israeli military approached the company to test the turbine on blowing away sand on airfields, an application for which the company had not considered, Agree said.

AirJet is also testing the product with a major commuter rail system to clear leaves from tracks. This application could prove lucrative for AirJet, as commuter train systems spend approximately $1 billion a year to repair damage caused when leaves get into train brake and line systems, Agee said. “We hope to do 100 units in 2013,” he said.

The company has other products under development as well, Agee said. “Our focus is products that are ergonomically and environmentally sound and affordable,” he said. “It takes two to three years from introduction to production to bring an idea to market,” he said.

Agee called the area a good place for a business for its abundance of skilled labor and talent. The area was once known for its leather and glove-making industries, but those are mostly gone now.

“It is a lot of fun coming to work every day. There is a lot of talent in this county,” Agee said.

 

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