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ARMTech conference brings companies to the region

| Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009

The first time that Clear Align came to the ARMTech Showcase of Industry and Technology six years ago, Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, introduced the little company to one of the big national defense contract companies there.

It got the optical engineering and system integration company from the Philadelphia area its first contract, its officials said during Armstrong County's 11th annual event at the Belmont Complex.

They found out that making a deal with a national company was as easy as walking across the aisle at ARMTech.

"That little contract got us in the door," Angelique Irvin, president and CEO of Clear Align, said during the business-to-business segment of the showcase held Friday. "Now we are rated as the 135th fastest-growing private company in the U.S."

Irvin said her company, which focuses on imaging, sensors and fiber optics, "builds things that detect and defend."

"We work with Mr. Murtha to get people aligned," she said. "Recently we saved the Navy $75 million on a contract."

David Huff, Clear Align vice president of business development, said his company regularly meets with companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce thanks to the connections made at ARMTech.

"These are folks that we've become familiar with," Huff said.

Laura Soukup, a representative at the booth of the Keller Center for Corporate Learning found the ARMTech program booklet of exhibitors to her liking. The company is from Pittsburgh.

"The organizers of the showcase generated a complete directory," said Soukup. "It helped me develop my strategy. I was able to meet with vendors from all over, from Philadelphia, Texas and Arizona. I just found the location of their exhibits in the booklet and walked right over to those companies."

The ARMTech Showcase, held in conjunction with the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners and the Armstrong County Industrial Development Council (IDC), is part of the Armstrong County Regional Manufacturing Initiative.

The goal of the event is to bring local, regional and national companies together to network and build relationships in order to promote industry recruitment to the area, create markets for area companies and help develop the workforce.

On Thursday, the public had its opportunity to meet with those same companies at a public showcase.

Networking is the real benefit of the business-to-business showcase, said Justin Nolder, assistant business manager with the county's Department of Economic Development.

"Businesses find value in being here with the opportunity to meet with companies that they may be potentially doing business with," Nolder said. "It's the smaller companies, many of them in this region, that are able to walk up to a representative of a large prime contractor, have a conversation with them and learn what they can be doing to do business."

Nolder said the feedback from exhibitors is always positive.

"They know there may not be something that comes out of it in year one, but the second or third year they're making their name known," he said. "The prime contractors take note and do business with them."

Armstrong County Commissioner Chairwoman Patty Kirkpatrick said that due to ARMTech, the small businesses in the region have formed customer supply relationships and that they are now manufacturing components that get into a lot of the major defense contractors' products.

"These are the small businesses that are operating here every day," said Kirkpatrick. "That's where you see the results. This is about retaining jobs and creating jobs in the county and the region."

Students at business booths

A new feature of ARMTech this year is that the county's high school students are in the booths as guest representatives of the companies.

After some training, they were prepared to answer Murtha's questions and tell him something about their companies.

"This is what we do, and this is what we make," was the presentation made by students.

Holding up a pen that changed colors, Laken Chromiak and Julianne Cogley took turns saying, "Every color of this pen is a different wave length," while they worked at Clear Align's booth.

Chromiak, of Ford City, a bio-med student, and Cogley, of Kittanning, in the advertising digital technology program, are students at the Lenape Technical School.

"I told him (Murtha) about this new technology that they're making and that it will save lives," Cogley said.

"I learned that the products they make help make it able to bring the men and women of our country (serving in the military) home safely," Chromiak said.

The presentation impressed Murtha.

"These young folks have learned exactly what this company is all about," Murtha said. "And they've learned also that if they apply themselves, they'll be able to accomplish much more."

"They've learned something and I've learned what they've learned," he said.

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