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Daughter Pilots Aerospace Firm Through Huge Growth

When Robert Stockberger moved his hydraulics parts business to Palmdale almost 30 years ago his daughter, Linda Bradley, couldn’t say she much appreciated the scenic differences in the new location. Bradley grew up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, but her father needed space for the business having outgrown its El Segundo location after 20 years, and land was plentiful in Palmdale in the 1970s. Crissair Inc. has managed to double its business in the last several years, however, with much of that growth coming in the last few, and its location has been a significant part of that success. “Being in the Palmdale area helped quite a bit initially,” Bradley said. “We were certainly able to buy land and construction in the 80s was very affordable. It allowed us to pretty much double our manufacturing capacity. At that point housing was also still relatively affordable, so a lot of our employees could afford to move with us from El Segundo.” Bradley started her career as a registered nurse, and spent some time working in healthcare management until about 20 years ago, when her father decided he wasn’t healthy enough to keep running the business alone and started to think about selling it. She wasn’t ready to see the company out of the family’s hands, and her two brothers were not much interested in taking over. She left the health care business, and started running the business with her father. His health slightly improved, and the two ran the business in tandem for eight years, before Bradley took the reins 12 years ago. The transition between two different industries did not present much of a challenge, Bradley said. “We had a good group here, it was just a matter of taking over the day to day management activities,” said Bradley. “I had 25 years of experience in health care and a management background.” Gaining employees Crissair was also able to hire some employees away from some of the industry giants that also had facilities in the area, like Lockheed and Boeing. Operating in California, Bradley, found, could only take the business so far, however. “Our next step was acquiring a facility in Mexico, it was the next step in order to remain competitive,” said Bradley of the facility that opened about eight years ago. “To be competitive with the Airbuses of the world is very hard in a society where you have unions, workers’ compensation and health care costs that are so high.” To keep its operations efficient, Crissair also recently hired a consultant to evaluate its manufacturing process to make sure its whole operation is as efficient as possible. Still, the most efficient operation in the world could not escape the recession of a few years ago without some slowdown in sales. The ubiquity of its hydraulics parts did help to soften the blow, however. “If it flies, we’re on it. We have very diverse products that are in almost everything from military to commercial jets,” said Bradley “We did take kind of take a small dip, but we were able to manage through the downtime and build things back up rather quickly.” Aggressive marketing “Basically what happened was that after 9/11 our directors of sales and engineering were two very aggressive and busy guys, and they went out and did a lot of marketing with our customers. That put in place some opportunities. When the industry started coming back, we had already been there and done that, so we were rewarded.” The new business started to hit the company’s books in 2005, and by the end of the year Crissair’s sales had grown by almost 40 percent. In the last year and a half the company has added more than 80 employees since then. Bradley’s two children also work for Crissair, and Bradley’s next step will be developing a succession plan for the business. “I’m certainly not working until I’m 80 like my father did,” Bradley said. “I’m trying to make sure we have some good people in management. . .probably the most viable option is either going to be completely sell the business or make sure we have some good people here when someone new takes over.”

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