Building momentum in LI manufacturing

Rise of the machining: GSE Dynamics President Anne Shybunko-Moore.

With its president busily rallying the disparate remains of a one-time tent-pole Long Island industry, a longtime military manufacturer has completed a key strategic acquisition.

Hauppauge-based GSE Dynamics, a 45-year-old engineering and manufacturing firm focused on U.S. military assemblies, has absorbed Westbury’s Elite Manufacturing Technologies, a family-owned, full-service industrial designer with experience in aerospace, electronics and medical-device manufacturing.

Terms of the deal, which closed in May, were not disclosed. But GSE Dynamics President Anne Shybunko-Moore said the acquisition gives her company something it’s never had before: a full-production machine shop, which puts new verticals squarely in GSE’s sights.

“Traditionally, we haven’t had a true production machine shop,” Shybunko-Moore said. “By importing them into my building, we can go after a lot more jobs and bring different kinds of work into this region.”

GSE Dynamics has taken on three full-time Elite Manufacturing Technologies employees – including EMT owner Ernie Hippner, now GSE’s director of machining operations – and is in the process of moving “extensive” machinery into one of its two Hauppauge facilities. The EMT staff and equipment will occupy about 14,000 square feet of GSE’s 57,000-square-foot Oser Avenue building, according to Shybunko-Moore.

While growing GSE Dynamics’ capabilities, and its bottom line, is the president’s primary function, Shybunko-Moore is serious about bringing more manufacturing work to Long Island, and not just for GSE. A wearer of many hats – including federal appointments and service on the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and the New York State Workforce Investment Board – she’s the chairwoman of the Manufacturing Consortium of Long Island, an advocacy group working to unite the regional manufacturing community.

It’s a topic the longtime executive understands well. While it was “never solidified in any formal way,” Shybunko-Moore referenced her involvement with a 10-year effort by Suffolk Community College, the Hauppauge Industrial Association and ADDAPT – the Hauppauge-based alliance of aerospace, defense and tech firms run by her husband, Jamie Moore – to serve as a “voice for regional manufacturing.”

“Now we’ve formalized the name,” she said, referring to the MCLI. “And we’re getting some industry support. This is not just a membership organization with a bunch of service companies in it … this is led by manufacturers who understand the challenges and want to find solutions.”

It’s critical work worthy of significant attention, according to Shybunko-Moore, who said her resignation this week from the Suffolk Community College Board of Trustees – three years before her term was set to expire, in June 2019 – will let her concentrate more on consortium issues.

“The focus of the resignation was the fact that I hold a lot of leadership positions in the region,” Shybunko-Moore told Innovate LI. “I feel my impact on the region could be greater and broader if I continue to focus on the Manufacturing Consortium, with specific focus on advocating for manufacturers and workforce training.”

Among the priorities on the MCLI’s radar, its chairwoman added, is a “media paradigm shift,” which she described as a critical tweaking of how Long Island’s economic issues are portrayed by mainstream media.

“Everyone talks about the 200 people leaving or the 300 people leaving or the 500 people being laid off,” Shybunko-Moore said. “But they fail to report that there might be a thousand (Long Island) companies each hiring five people this year. Or maybe 2,800 companies hiring one person each.”

To that end, a “central data hub” is in the works, designed to collect and analyze actual Long Island employment data – another critical weapon, according to Shybunko-Moore, in the fight to strengthen the regional manufacturing sector.

“Without real data, you can’t push for anything,” she said. “I really feel like up until now, it’s all been anecdotal discussions, because we’ve lacked actual data. And that’s not getting us anywhere.

“But if we start looking at the companies that are here, start looking at the real numbers, then we have something to stand on and push for.”

This mindset of focusing growth efforts where they’re actually needed is evident in GSE Dynamics’ recent acquisition. By bringing in Elite Manufacturing Technologies’ machinery and expertise, the Hauppauge company gained not only new customers – four longstanding EMT clients, Shybunko-Moore said, all military – but that fully functioning machine shop to complement its existing composites and mechanical-assembly operations

“This was a really perfect blending of capabilities,” Shybunko-Moore noted, giving her company “a lot more capability to perform different types of production machining jobs.”

It also swelled GSE Dynamics’ full-time employee roster to 65 – it had just 48 when it consolidated its Georgia-based fiberglass-composite operations on Long Island in 2012 – and set the stage for future hires, the president added.

“I do think the acquisition will bring more jobs,” she said. “I do plan to hire more. I’ll have a better sense in about a year, after I see where the growth goes.”

Shybunko-Moore, who is planning an open house for July to introduce vendors and customers to GSE Dynamics’ new machine shop, said “slow and controlled growth” is the plan now for the circa-1971 parts distributor launched by her father, Daniel Shybunko.

And that’s pretty much her strategy for the MCLI, too, which is “well-positioned to be the vocal leader for Long Island manufacturing,” the chairwoman noted.

“We’ve been talking about these problems for 10 or 20 years, but we haven’t really talked about a strategic plan or implemented solutions that manufacturing businesses want or need,” she said. “There are a lot of players running around the field who know what the problems are, but nobody has really taken that quarterback position.

“[The consortium] is going to quarterback this,” Shybunko-Moore added. “The MCLI is positioned well to lead this team.”