Sierra Nevada exec speaks to Greencastle-Antrim development group


A lack of qualified employees led Sierra Nevada Corporation to recruit from the I-270 corridor and as far away as upstate New York. Kirk Slenker, vice president, Technology, for its Integrated Missions Systems at the Hagerstown Airport, spoke at the annual meeting of Greencastle-Antrim Area Development Corporation on May 29. He addressed a noon crowd of nearly 60 at John Allison Public House.

The division of the national company revamped its operation a few years ago, and couldn’t find local engineers in aeronautics, electrical, mechanical, and computer. It employed 500 people, and at any given time, half of them were deployed in the field. Some of the commuting staff found housing in the Greencastle area, including Slenker.

Sierra Nevada converts small transport aircraft for special mission purposes in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It has customers around the world, including the U.S. and foreign governments.

“We take nice-looking, slick aircraft and make them really ugly,” said Slenker.

The units are gutted and then filled with electronics and antennae to collect information via sensors, imaging, and radio and communications systems. The business works out of five hangars and 50,000 square feet of office space.

Slenker called Sierra Nevada “a terrific American dream and success story”. It was privately owned by Fatih and Eren Ozmen, Turkish nationals. They met at the University of Nevada, Reno. He began working for the small company as an engineer and she as a cleaning lady to finance the rest of her college years. They bought the business and expanded it, becoming CEO and president, respectively. Sierra Nevada is a $2 billion a year corporation with 3,000 employees in 30 facilities.

During the business portion of the meeting, G-AADC president Frank Traver said the organization, formed in 1959, still believed the key to development in Antrim Township was completing the connector road between Grindstone Hill Road and exit 3. It was actively seeking business opportunities for a local company.

Treasurer John McDowell reported assets of $138,787 and no liabilities.

Secretary Mary Cordell shared results of the election, with Brian Hissong, McDowell and Traver returning, and Michael Kulpak from FabTech brought on as a new board member.