With Chuck Davo, Owner and President of MECA Electronics, Inc.
NF: Many companies in this industry have been around for 50 years. But not many still go by the same name and have never been bought or merged. Tell me about MECA's beginnings.
CD: My father, Ronald R. Davo, worked for Western Electric in Chicago and accepted a transfer to Western Electric Company (Whippany, NJ) in 1959. He saw the need for competitively priced, connectorized attenuators, couplers, power dividers, and terminations. He incorporated in June of 1961 and started MECA (which stands for Microwave Electronic Components of America) in the basement of his house. Later, he rented office space in Dover, NJ. We eventually moved to our current location in Denville, NJ in 1965, where we continue to operate to this day.
NF: Which industries and applications did MECA concentrate on initially?
CD: We predominantly produced products for the US military. MECA's focus in the 1960s had been on radar systems and instrument landing systems. With President Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam in the mid-to-late 1960s, the company saw steady growth in its military business.
NF: Did your father's focus then switch largely to the commercial wireless market?
CD: In the mid-1970s, MECA started designing products for Bell Labs in Whippany. Many of my father's former co-workers had moved into senior-level engineering positions with Bell Labs and knew MECA's engineering capabilities. My father parlayed his contacts and engineering abilities and MECA became an initial supplier for their early frequency-division-multiple-access (FDMA) systems. It took until the early 1980s for the company to see much payback for his efforts. By 1986, the need for products that had been qualified years earlier skyrocketed and continued until 2000. My father continued to guide MECA until he became ill in 1990. (He passed away in June 1992.)
NF: So for about 25 years, the company mainly targeted commercial wireless applications?
CD: Yes, we had focused primarily on the commercial wireless market to the exclusion of other market segments. We were a well-known name to the wireless-equipment manufacturers and our business model had become heavily dependent upon their continued activity. We had seen a major slowdown in the wireless market in late 1999 and suffered for our short-sightedness. In the early 2000s, we had to shift our focus and re-engage numerous market segments, such as military and satellite.
NF: What technologies does MECA offer today?
CD: The technologies that MECA currently offers are coaxial airline, microstrip, and stripline. We recently introduced lumped-element technologies as well.
NF: I understand that you and the management team rejuvenated the company in 2004.
CD: From 2000 to 2003, I had to do some soul searching and made several personnel changes that would help re-invent the company and position it for the future. I brought on a new General Manager with a strong background in engineering and management. We increased our depth in engineering by adding a stripline engineer to complement our coaxial airline and microstrip capabilities. Also, we strengthened our sales and distribution efforts. We also realized that being a vertically integrated company didn't serve us very well. We began locally outsourcing the material that was not our strong suit. Our products primarily had an operating frequency range of 0.800 to 2.200 GHz. Presently, they cover 0.150 to 20.000 GHz.
NF: How have these changes served MECA?
CD: For the last eight years, we've seen continued growth. Our sales have increased nearly five-fold in that time period. In terms of customers, I remember back to 1994 when we had approximately 50 customers. Presently, our customer base is in the thousands. And not one customer comprises more than 8% of our business.
NF: And everything MECA manufactures is "made in the USA," correct?
CD: Yes. We take pride in that fact. MECA is proof that a company does not have to send jobs offshore to be competitive. Many of our competitors utilize offshore manufacturing, for example. As a result, many can't meet the short lead-time requirements of our commercial customersnor can they supply products to the US military due to ITAR and DFARS regulations.
NF: Do you think the small size of your company is an advantage in this regard?
CD: We're not so small anymore! We've learned that a company must be customer-centric. When a customer calls looking for assistance, we must answer their questions promptly and accurately. Our customer-service representatives constantly hear stories from new customers who called our competitors. They oftentimes find themselves leaving a voicemail with the hope that they will get an answer within three days. Great customer service is imperative to spreading the good word about MECA.
NF: Any last comments on what has helped MECA survive and set itself apart?
CD: Our people are our biggest and most important asset. We re-invest profits back into the business regularly. We keep current on the latest design software, test equipment, and manufacturing technologies. We strive to deliver quality into every product, by every employee, every step of the way.