Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 29 April 2011 00:00
Two very different technological marvels are situated at Cox and Company, Inc.’s Plainview manufacturing facility: a large icing wind tunnel, one of the most sophisticated pieces of test equipment in the world for simulating the icy conditions that aircraft experience during flight, and an old textile-braiding machine, dating back to the 1930s. This embrace of all forms of technology- new and old, state-of-the-art systems and jury-rigged holdovers from the Industrial Revolution alike—already makes the Cox facility unique.
However, it was for different reasons that Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano choose Cox and Company as the first recipient of his brand new “Business of the Month” recognition; the fact that the company, which builds customized temperature control and ice protection systems for the aerospace industry, not only taps into the Nassau labor pool, hiring local workers, but acts as a considerate corporate neighbor, said Mangano, is what pushed the 100 percent employee-owned company to the front of the pack.
“Businesses like Cox and Company are the lifeblood of our local economy in Nassau County,” said Mangano. “It’s a company that concentrates in an area of harvesting intellectual property from our citizens and their employees.”
From NYC to Nassau
Cox and Company’s presence in Plainview is something of a symbolic victory for the county as well; while New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut all wooed the company when it was time to leave its Greenwich Village facility, it was Nassau County that finally lured them away, explained company president Steve Landry.
“We relocated to Nassau County at the beginning of 2008 from New York City, which had become too expensive. As the business has expanded, we have been very fortunate in finding dedicated and highly qualified employees,” said Landry. The company has hired thirty people since relocating, increasing from a staff of 130 to 160.
Furthermore, Mangano believes that highlighting what Cox and Company has been able to accomplish—as well as future recipients of his “business of the month” recognition- will go a long way toward proving that Nassau is a more hospitable environment for business than some who are concerned about taxes may realize. “Too often, we hear about the doom and gloom, but we want to emphasize the great climate that we have here for business. We want to reassure our businesses that we are working to lower real property taxes, which is the number one thing that scares companies away,” said Mangano.
An Icy Reception
Started in New York City by founder Duncan Cox in 1944, Cox and Company now does business all over the world. Their two major product lines are temperature control products (involving changing electricity into heat), and ice protection systems.
The point of the first product line should be obvious to anyone who has ever flown. “You ever get cold on a commercial aircraft, sitting next to an exit door? Well, those are our competitors products,” said Landry, to a laugh from the visitors who toured the facility with Mangano on April 21.
However, Landry explained, the largest growth segment of the business involves removing ice from aircraft at a fraction of the power that other technologies require. Icy buildup on the wings of aircraft changes the geometry of the wings, causing an aircraft to lose lift—something manufacturers would like to prevent. Cox and Company specializes in ice removal systems, and tests them with the aid of the LeClerc Icing Research Facility (LIRL), which Landry refers to as the “crown jewel” of the facility; there are only four such pieces of equipment in the U.S., and only a few more in the world.
“It’s probably the largest piece of test equipment, and the most expensive that you have in Nassau County,” said Landry.
Within the wind tunnel, a 250 horsepower, 12-blade fan generates winds up to 40 miles an hour, lowering the temperature to -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say, it can be perilous for anyone unlucky enough to be stuck inside the tunnel, but employees ensured the visitors on April 21 that they would not turn on the fan while Mangano and visiting reporters were inside.
Making Wires The Old-Fashioned Way
Despite the high-tech testing equipment, a lot of the products Cox sells come from the labor of human hands rather than machines. Electro-thermal heaters are made by hand, a highly labor-intensive process. In addition, the company has a machine shop on-site so they can make their own tools and fixtures. Even the heating wire used in their products is made the old-fashioned way; the aforementioned braiding machine, bought second-hand by Duncan Cox in the ’40s, is used to bind components together and make wire, rather than buying it from another source.
“This is one reason why we have a metal shop too,” said Landry, referring to the braiding machine. “If anything breaks on this machine, we’re not getting spare parts.”
All of this make-it-yourself gusto comes at a price; the company purchases between $6 and $8 million annually in parts, between electronics and other components, and Landry estimates that 75 percent of that comes from the Long Island area.
In addition to the braiding machine, Landry showed Mangano and guests the engineering workshop, where prototypes and test equipment are developed, explaining that Cox and Company employs engineers in multiple disciplines to create their products.
A Fascinating Partnership
Even those who have never heard of Cox and Company have probably heard of Northrop Grumman, which Cox has worked with in the past—Cox systems were on the Grumman/NASA Lunar Landing Module when man walked on the moon. While they aren’t currently working on anything quite as exciting as going to the moon, Cox is cooperating with Northrop Grumman once again; they will be providing the ice protection systems on the Navy’s new MQ-4C BAMS UAS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System), a large, unmanned aircraft produced by Northrop Grumman. Some of the engineers working on the UAS project are from Northrop Grumman’s nearby Bethpage facility, said Landry.
After the tour concluded, Mangano congratulated Landry and his staff once again. “They have some fantastic high technology intellectual property here that I’m sure is the envy of the world, and they’re right here in Nassau County,” concluded Mangano.
The Nassau County Office of Economic Development’s Business Development Unit is seeking recommendations for Nassau County businesses engaged in one of the following strategic industries to be profited: agriculture, manufacturing, financial services/data center, scientific research and development or back office operations/distribution centers. Not only will selected companies be profiled on the county website, but the county executive will tour the facility along with members of the county’s Office of Economic Development Business Development Unit. To make a recommendation, please contact executive director Evette Beckett-Tuggle at 572-1971.
To find out more about Cox & Company, Inc., visit the website at www.coxandco.com.