Last week's column on the "coming of age" of the microwave industry brought some great feedback, including from one Northeast company that has not only survived these recent economic woes, but has thrived: TRM Microwave. In fact, the steps the company has taken along the way may well serve as a model for other companies seeking long-term success. Those steps include investing in your company's infrastructure and investing in your people.

TRM Microwave will celebrate 40 years in business this coming June, founded in 1970 in Bedford, NH by Tony Tirollo and Art Marin. Starting in a 1200-square-foot facility, the company now occupies 15,000 square feet and is in need of another building. The firm has built a solid reputation for its military and space-qualified passive-component product lines, including directional couplers, power dividers, hybrids and beamformers. But it also offers exceptional engineering services, and custom jobs have accounted for much of the growth in recent years: "We've always had that tough, New England attitude and have never gone back to a customer and said that we couldn't do the job for them," explains Tirollo. The company enjoyed record bookings and shipments last year, during a time when most US companies struggled, with over 80 percent of revenues from custom orders. To help with the company's evolution, Tirollo credits Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mark Schappler: "We are improving our manufacturing processes in order to handle higher-volume jobs more efficiently. That's one of the things that Mark has brought to the company." Schappler points out that their customers drive them to improve: "Our customers are constantly pushing us for greater performance at lower cost. Right now, we are working on the redesign of a custom job in order to drop the price 30 percent for that customer." By becoming "engineering problem solvers" and cultivating its young engineering talent, Tirollo and his team have built a company to last far beyond 40 years.