Leahy: I-89 North Corridor Excels During Tough Economy

...Jobs At Three NW Vermont Firms Thrive With $8.4 M. In Leahy-Secured Research And Development

MILTON, Vt. – During a visit to Milton’s Ascension Technology Monday, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy got a firsthand look at the work Ascension Technology, Milton’s Omni Medical Systems, and Georgia (Vt.)-based Liquid Measurement Systems (LMS) are delivering for the Department of Defense using $8.4 million in Leahy-secured funding for research and development.  Leahy met with the firms’ leadership and economic development professionals from the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation and the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation to commend the firms’ continued success in the difficult economy and the impressive track record of the firms’ 93-person workforce.

“Even during a difficult national recession, across Vermont there are bright spots in this economy,” said Leahy.  “There are firms hiring, and firms that have avoided layoffs because of their innovative leadership and quality products.  The 89-North Corridor between Milton and Georgia has great things happening along it – and these three firms – Ascension Technology, Omni Medical Systems and Liquid Measurement Systems – are delivering more than great jobs to Vermonters, they are also delivering vitally important systems to the Department of Defense.”

After a tour of Ascension’s facilities, Ascension Technology President Ernie Blood and Vice President Jack Scully updated Leahy on the company’s work on a $2.4 million contract to develop targeting technology as well as synthetic vision systems for military and even commercial pilots.  The helmet-mounted device, called phasorBIRD, uses advanced optical tracking technology to continuously track head motions.  Ascension Technology, a leader in the production of magnetic and optical tracking technology for military, commercial and medical applications, is located in Milton’s Catamount Industrial Park and employs 38 people.  Blood said the contract helped stabilize the firm’s employment base.

“A derivative of the technology is also being developed for precisely aiming radiation beams at cancerous tumors,” said Blood, who demonstrated the new medical systems to Leahy Monday. “Funding secured by Senator Leahy has kept us charging hard towards new military products, and is already opening the door to entirely new markets, such as medical imaging.”

During a meeting with the firms’ leadership, Leahy told LMS President George Lamphere that the recently enacted Defense Appropriations bill included $2.4 million to equip National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters with crashworthy, ballistically self-sealing, refuelable internal auxiliary fuel systems.  Leahy noted that these systems have been deployed to special forces airframes and active duty airframes for a short time, but that these funds will expand the systems’ availability to units being deployed with guard members across the country and to units used domestically for search and rescue.  LMS manufactures fuel measurement systems for the fuel systems.  The company currently employs 25 and plans to hire at least two new people in the coming year.

“The recent announcement that the National Guard would purchase more of our equipment gives LMS a significant boost, both economically and in confidence,” said Lamphere.  “As a result LMS will continue to grow, provide great jobs and expand our operation.  In 2010 we expect to expand our facility by 30 percent and add two to four jobs.  This is very positive considering the current state of manufacturing in Vermont and across the country.  We are proud to have an advocate such as Senator Patrick Leahy, someone that spends time with small businesses, takes an interest in their innovative ideas and supports the development of those ideas.”

Leahy told Omni Medical Systems President Mark Harvie, which sits just yards away from Ascension’s Milton facility, that the Defense Appropriations bill also included $1.6 million for the development and procurement of mission extender devices – relief devices that allow pilots to fly longer with fewer distractions.  Omni Medical Systems will use the new funds to continue $2 million worth of contract work the firm did this past year with the U.S. Navy.   Omni Medical Systems currently employs 30 people and has hired seven people in the past year.  The firm intends to hire between five and ten people in the coming year.

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