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Navy taps firm for new ship

Weldrite Closures Inc. has gained a boost to its business through work from the emergency preparation market; users of its products include the U.S. Navy and the New York City subway system.

The company’s products include watertight isolation enclosures on ships, protective blast doors on nuclear submarines, and Homeland Security needs including large-scale flood control walls.

One of the programs Weldrite has been working on is the DDG 1000—the Navy’s newest guided-missile destroyer, which recently went out for sea trials from General Dynamics Corp.’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine.

Because of the increased demand for its products, leaders at the Rochester-based firm are looking by year-end to increase their workforce by 30 percent and grow sales by 40 percent.

The fabrication business specializes in watertight doors and hatches. It has some 32 workers at its 50,000-square-foot facility in the Rochester Tech Park in Gates.

Jason Nelson and Greg Scace founded the firm in 2008. It provides welding, assembling and finishing services to industries worldwide, including military, maritime, oil and gas and power generation. Weldrite’s projects range from light-duty fabricated assemblies to 20-plus-ton armor-plated welded assemblies.

The company attributes its success to providing quality products to customers on time that are consistent with their needs, Scace said. He noted Weldrite’s niche markets, many of which are tightly regulated by the government, help the company prevail over foreign competitors and low-cost alternatives.

Weldrite, for example, has a multimillion dollar contract for each of the three DDG 1000 ships the Navy has commissioned, fabricating 58 watertight doors and hatches for each 600-foot-long vessel, Scace said. The firm is working as a subcontractor for a supplier to General Dynamics.

He did not disclose the contract price, but said it is the firm’s biggest contract.

The doors Weldrite is producing for the project come in several shapes and sizes, including mooring station doors, which at 13,000 pounds each house the mooring lines used to attach to tugboats and to secure the ship in port.

The ship’s boat bay door, another feature fabricated by Weldrite, is welded into the hull of the ship, and when open, has a boat ramp that is able to accommodate two high-speed, 40-foot inflatable boats.

During the DDG 1000 sea trials, one such boat was used to save a captain of a small fishing vessel who had had a heart attack.

The ship doors are built using materials such as high-strength, low-alloy steel and high-yield strength steel.

Another end user of Weldrite’s equipment is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It is North America’s largest transportation network and serves a population of 15.2 million people in the 5,000-square-mile area encompassing New York City, Long Island, southeastern New York and Connecticut.

Following the massive storm damage the New York City area endured during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, MTA took steps to improve the safety of some of its infrastructure.

Weldrite has been charged with fabricating products for the massive transportation system, from steel doors to drain plug enclosures.

The firm also creates doors for hydroelectric dams and for public buildings.

The company is working on a job for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Weldrite is creating a 380-foot log-style barrier system that can surround the entire building to protect it in case of a natural disaster.

Nelson said the largest growth area the firm has seen in the last few years is the flood protection market.

The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy caused city planners, insurance companies and individual businesses across the country to reconsider their flood protection equipment and planning, Nelson said, adding it has led to new orders for Weldrite for products that include log barriers, conventional flood barriers and watertight doors.

As the company looks to expand its workforce, its biggest challenge is finding skilled welders and machinists, especially for the second shift, Nelson said.

The company last year brought on Judd Prozeller as director of quality improvement to help with strategic initiatives that will help the firm grow, as well as attract and keep employees.

Prozeller has 20 years of experience working in the quality arena for firms such as Complemar Partners Inc. and Veeco Instruments Inc. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Weldrite’s workforce, which consists of certified welders, machinists and project managers, is an integral part of the company’s success, Scace added.

“It’s what sets the company apart from all the competition,” he said.

1/22/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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