High-tech fasteners made in Huntington, used worldwide - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

High-tech fasteners made in Huntington, used worldwide

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By JAMES E. CASTO

For The State Journal

HUNTINGTON — Star Technologies LLC, which manufactures a broad array of high-tech metal fasteners for the transportation industry, has no customers in West Virginia even though it sells its West Virginia-made products to customers nationwide and abroad.

Earlier this year, when the West Virginia Development Office and the West Virginia Export Council honored more than 50 state companies for adding new countries to their list of foreign customers, Star Technologies was recognized for adding Brazil, Canada and Mexico to its list of foreign buyers. The Huntington manufacturer long has exported its fasteners to Great Britain, Japan and a number of other countries, including such unlikely locales as Poland and Malaysia.

The Star Technologies plant, located in the 2400 block of 4th Avenue in Huntington, produces millions of parts each year, according to its managing partner, Rick Houvouras.

One of its biggest customers is GE Aviation, a world leader in the manufacture of jet engines. 

"We manufacture 200 different designs for GE," Houvouras said.

The parts State Technologies makes aren't sold in West Virginia because the state doesn't have the kinds of manufacturers that use them. The company's precision clamping devices, brackets and metal stampings are primarily used in the aircraft industry but find their way into other transportation uses as well, including heavy-duty transit buses. The parts also are used in commercial heating and cooling products.

To fashion its parts, the company uses the latest production laser systems and advanced water jet technology. The parts are made from a variety of metals, including aluminum, titanium, stainless steel and Inconel, a high-performance nickel-chromium super alloy known for its corrosion resistance at high temperatures. 

Star Technologies got its start in 1994, when Houvouras and a group of other local investors saw a promising business opportunity after a longtime Huntington fastener maker shuttered its operations.

Founded in 1938, Adel Precision Products Corp. played an important role in World War II, when America's output of warplanes dramatically multiplied almost overnight. Workers at Adel's Huntington plant worked night and day to meet the demand for the company's aviation fasteners. But the company had its ups and downs in the post-war era.

In the early 1990s, a California-based company bought Adel, closed its Huntington plant and moved the jobs to the West Coast. That left many of Adel's veteran employees jobless. Some had never worked anywhere other than the fastener plant. Enter Houvouras and other local investors, who teamed up and raised $800,000 to start Star Technologies.

The new venture began operation by hiring a half-dozen former Adel employees — and pledging to them that, once the company reached a given level of profitability, they could become partners in it.

Houvouras said the former Adel employees were the key to the company's success.

"They had skills that were needed — purchasing, quality control, tool  and die-making, production expertise and engineering skills," he said.

A former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates representing Cabell County, Houvouras is also quick to credit state government for lending the company a helping hand, especially when it was getting started. 

"The state," he said, "has helped by providing low-interest loans and work force training grants."