Feb. 7, 2022 (Palmer) – Today, at an industrial manufacturing shop in Palmer, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy celebrated the work of Alaskan entrepreneurs who are manufacturing and exporting innovative medical, commercial, and industrial products from Alaska.
“These business owners have overcome the perception that Alaska is too remote for manufacturing, with their ingenuity and their ability to capitalize on Alaska’s air cargo access to U.S. and global markets. With each Alaskan-made product exported south or globally, they are demonstrating that Alaska’s presence as a manufacturing hub is solidifying,” said Governor Dunleavy.
The Made In Alaska program has more than 1,000 permit holders, but the Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows closer to some 600 wage and salary employers in Alaska’s manufacturing industry. Historically, exporting certain products from Alaska has faced hurdles associated with shipping costs. Companies highlighted today demonstrate the path to breaking these export barriers by developing products that are uniquely innovative, lightweight and/or high in value.
“Manufacturing businesses support reliable jobs with solid wages that add economic diversity and stability to our communities and our economy,” said Julie Sande, Alaska’s Commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development.
Alaska State Sen. Shelley Hughes, who represents District F, including Palmer, sees the value of the economic diversity created by Alaska manufacturing. “I appreciate the Governor highlighting manufacturing as an important step toward greater economic diversification in Alaska. The goal of opening up opportunities and expanding our economy to include new – and to strengthen existing – sectors has been a goal of mine during my time in the legislature. I believe this is the next step in growing our local and state economies through innovative approaches. I am encouraged and excited for what the future holds,” Sen. Hughes said.
In Palmer City’s industrial district, before some 75 guests, Governor Dunleavy highlighted half a dozen businesses in aerospace, aviation, agriculture, outdoor adventure and medical-tech who are doing business there. All of them build subcomponents of their products or ceramic coat them at TriJet, the sister company to Triverus, where the news conference was held. Triverus is known for building innovative deck cleaners (mobile cleaning recovery recycle system vehicle, MCRRS) for aircraft carriers of the U.S. Navy. Triverus also broke into the news in the beginning of the pandemic when Governor Dunleavy asked owner, Hans Vogel, to manufacture swabs and visors to help supply the state when the supply chain had none to offer. Triverus purchased 3D printers to deliver on the Governor’s request and made more than a couple 100,000 swabs for testing when Alaska needed them most.
Recently, a new 3D printer arrived at the shop and is four times faster. The new equipment will be dedicated to printing polymer clips for one of the newest Alaska companies to choose manufacturing at TriJet. Called AlertWet, the company was founded by two engineers who work as contractors for Lockheed Martin. Alaskan and Co-Founder Kimberly Gray turned her data analytics aptitude for tracking F-35s to the medical field. Gray and Co-founder Edward Ward, developed a clip that gathers data from a thin bed pad lined with sensors. “We saw a way to improve the lives of bedridden people by providing live data to those who take care of them,” said Gray. “Our enterprise software alerts nurses and health care workers when our disposable intelligent pads are wet,” she said. “Manual checks are often unreliable. Annual treatment of bedsores in the U.S. costs upwards of $10 billion. Efficiencies from AlertWet reduce risk for hospitals and patients,” Gray said.
AlertWet plans to make the Palmer manufacturing shop into a hub for West Coast manufacturing and distribution of their proprietary clips, said Curtis McQueen, AlertWet’s director of business development. Recently, AlertWet has been negotiating with New York hospital systems and a West coast hospital giant. “As we focused on our research and development process, thinking through the logistics of material sourcing, it was important for our company to align ourselves with American companies. Not only can we say Made in the USA, but we can also say parts are made in Alaska,” said McQueen who lives outside Wasilla.
Other Alaska commercial and industrial manufacturers celebrated at the event include:
- The Launch Company says it helps launchers get to space faster, cheaper, and more reliably by developing standardized hardware connections, ground support equipment, and processes. The Launch Company manufactures fueling fittings and other hardware for rockets, spacecraft, and satellites with some of the components manufactured at TriJet. They’ve worked with some of the biggest names in aerospace including Virgin Orbit. CEO Ben Kellie previously worked at SpaceX. Also a SpaceX former employee, Engineering Director Robert Doty, who grew up in Alaska, attended the event.
- Indemnis develops parachutes for drones to enable flight over people and was cofounded by Alan Erickson, Amber McDonald, MacKenzie Banbury, Michael Collier, Mitch Monnett and Matti Dupree. Many of their metal components, brackets and mounting hardware for their parachutes were manufactured by TriJet. Zachary Cawvey and Warren Reasner attended. Erickson also co-founded two companies that export technology: Fintech ‘Zo Financial,’ which offers virtual lease-to-own services (also co-founders Buddy Bailey and Dr. Wade Erickson) and an app, COVIDSecure, which is used by 100s of companies including Walt Disney and Netflix, Erickson said.
- VH Hydroponics provides customized vertical farming solutions to grow fresh, local produce year-round. There’s two products: a commercial garden inside a 40-foot shipping container and a double-door cabinet size garden for smaller producers. The cabinet garden is exported to universities and soup kitchens in the Lower 48. The intellectual property and licensed designs for the shipping containers are exported to Canada. Alaskan Cameron Willingham is the founder and CEO. VP Jamie Boring also attended. TriJet manufactures shelving components, plumbing and tanks for VH Hydroponics.
- Airglas, Inc., started in 1955, is the world leader in aircraft landing skis. The company has made 24 ski sets for the Boeing Apache AH-64 helicopters for the U.S. Army and most recently began making pods for external cargo such as survival gear for the U.S. military. Airglas also makes skis and pods for general aviation. Their innovative nose forks for Cessnas are sold on every continent, except Antarctica, says General Manager Jim Hammer. Alaskan Shane Langland is the president of Airglas. At TriJet the company does machining work on subcomponents for the hydraulic cylinders of their skis.
- Airframes Alaska LLC fabricates bush plane parts and backcountry gear, including Arctic Oven tents. Some components of the tent frames undergo a ceramic coating by TriJet. AirFrames is one of two Alaskan-based companies ranked in the Annual Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing, private companies in America, employing 100 Alaskans. Sean McLaughlin is the CEO. Director of Manufacturing Eric Jensen attended.
A livestream of the news conference in Palmer is available on the Governor’s Facebook page.