10/21/2012 6:57:00 PM Council members tour aerospace company, learn about its impact on local economy
Michael Dailey, right, president and general manager of Prescott Aerospace Inc. in Prescott Valley, talks about the company during a tour he conducted for the Town Council Thursday evening. Vice Mayor Don Tjiema is to his left.
Photo courtesy Ken Hedler
Ken Hedler Special to the Tribune
The Town Council took a field trip Thursday that educated its members on the small but significant role that the aerospace industry plays in the community.
The after-hours tour, which lasted about 90 minutes, took the seven council members, Town Manager Larry Tarkowski, Town Clerk Diane Russell and a newspaper reporter to Prescott Aerospace Inc.
"It is probably a good idea to know what the businesses (are doing) in our community, (for) visibility, to let them know we are here and we are interested in what they are doing and happy that they are in our town doing business," Councilman Rick Anderson said before the van arrived at Prescott Aerospace at 6600 E. 6th St.
Prescott Aerospace builds parts for Boeing for the Apache helicopter, the C-17 cargo plane, the F-15 Navy fighter and the F-18 Air Force fighter, Michael Dailey, president and general manager, said.
Dailey said he founded the company in 1983 in a 1,500-square-foot building that the late Councilman Jim Black built on Long Mesa Drive. Prescott Aerospace moved in nine years to a 7,000-square-foot building on Mendecino Drive and expanded it to 12,000 square feet.
Prescott Aerospace moved to its present location, above Fain Park, in 2001 after Dailey said he bought the site from the Fain family. Since then, he expanded the building from 30,000 to 45,000 square feet.
Dailey, who has worked in the aerospace field since 1974, said he started with himself and an employee- now retired - and grew Prescott Aerospace to a shop that has 27 employees, mostly machinists. He also maintains a small presence with seven employees in the Phoenix area.
"Most of our work is government work," Dailey told his guests, adding 80 to 85 percent is defense-related.
Dailey, who has served on the board of the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation for years, said Boeing is his main customer, adding his employees have been working on a project for Boeing since May. He referred to how the changes in the economy and defense budget have affected Prescott Aerospace.
Prescott Aerospace has laid off two or three employees over the past 15 years, Dailey said. He expressed concerns about the potential effects of $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts from the federal government that would kick in during the start of 2013.
Dailey said with a laugh that the expansion of the building "increased my debt in the wrong time," taking place during the same year as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
He said the average wage is $50,000 a year at the plant, with some employees earn close to $100,000 a year.
Dailey showed the council members rows of milling machines, held a hinge for an Apache helicopter and passed it to the council members to feel. He recycles aluminum shavings, and pays a salvage company to take the waste oil from the machines.
The machines replaced work that was done by hand in the 1960s, Dailey said. A milling machine can do as much work in an hour as it took for a person to do by hand in a week in the '60s.
Dailey held an aluminum rod that cleans the guns in the Apache helicopters.
He fielded a number of questions. He said Prescott Aerospace has not had an industrial accident over the past 10 years while acknowledging some employees have been cut from the sharp metal.
Dailey showed an aluminum part that measures 18 by 24 inches that goes into an F-15.
Referring to millions of dollars in investment in machines, Dailey said, "You've got to spend money to make money."
Tarkowski interjected, "And stay up with the technology."
Tarkowski and the council members walked past containers of parts that await inspection.
Dailey showed off lathe machines that drill holes.
He showed off a muzzle break that goes inside a 25mm gun. A sign in all capital letters warns workers, "Do not handle these parts with bare hands. Must use gloves."
Dailey took his guests on the last stop of the tour: the inspection room. A glass probe in a coordinate measuring machine uses extreme precision to determine whether parts have flaws.
Dailey concluded the tour by saying, "I think it is very important that you guys understand that in this area we have some very good people who care."