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Urbana firm expanding reach to Middle East

Company has doubled local jobs since 2011.

A company that has more than doubled in size since 2011 is expecting to extend its reach further in 2014 after securing one of the largest agreements in the industry’s recent history late last year.

Hughey and Phillips announced in December it had reached a multi-million dollar agreement with one of Canada’s largest telecommunications firms to provide obstruction lighting on the company’s towers. Hughey and Phillips shares a facility at West Twain Avenue with its sister company Sarica Manufacturing, and combined, the companies have grown from about 50 employees in 2011 to slightly more than 110 in 2014.

The Urbana company is expecting to increase sales further in 2014, said Jim Sullivan, vice president of sales for Hughey and Phillips. Among the most significant additions, the firm plans to open an office in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, in 2014 and hire a sales person to promote the company’s products in that region.

Hughey and Phillips sells obstruction lighting, often used to alert aircraft to tall objects such as cell phone towers, wind turbines and other objects. Sarica is a manufacturing firm that builds circuit cards and other items for aerospace, automotive and industrial customers.

The Dubai office would help build the Hughey and Phillips’ presence in a rapidly expanding market, as that region is seeing a boom in construction, including airports and other infrastructure, Sullivan said.

“That area is one of the largest markets for airports and telecommunications lighting,” Sullivan said.

The recent agreement Hughey and Phillips reached in Canada could last between two and five years depending on how long it takes to install the lighting, Sullivan said. The contract will mostly secure jobs that already exist, according to company officials, but it is possible jobs could be added.

Sullivan briefly discussed a recent federal decision that shut the Miami Valley out of a bid to become one of six sites across the U.S. to test Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Instead, sites in Virginia, New York, North Dakota, Nevada, Alaska and Texas received the designation.

Hughey and Phillips would likely have benefited if Ohio was chosen because the company would have had the opportunity to provide lighting for structures throughout the region as the UAVs were tested. In addition, Sarica sells high-end parts to the aerospace industry and would have also likely received additional business, but Sullivan said it’s hard to put a finger on how many jobs or how much money the designation might have meant for the companies.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, visited the companies Tuesday and asked what kinds of issues the firms are facing. Like many local manufacturing firms, Sullivan and Amy Wolf, a customer service manager for Sarica, said the companies sometimes struggle to find qualified employees for some high-tech manufacturing jobs.

“A good deal of our time is spent on talent acquisition,” Sullivan said.

County and city officials are increasingly trying to promote manufacturing jobs that are available and are looking for creative ways to retrain the local workforce for the jobs that are available, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for Urbana.

“The statistics are overwhelming,” Bailey said. “With the aging workforce, we’ve got to grow our own.”

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