By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.ALLOTSEGO.com
Custom Electronics President/CEO Michael Pentaris has two degrees – a bachelor’s in accounting and an MBA – from SUNY Binghamton.
“But I’m not sold on that,” he acknowledged the other day during a tour of the company’s Browne Street plant in the Town of Oneonta. “I’m looking for people with ambition.”
He was accompanied on the tour by Jim Sloan, one of his key lieutenants, an Oneonta High School graduate who joined the company 31 years ago and worked his way up through the ranks.
Custom Electronics, founded in 1963 by Peter S. Dokuchitz, the future assemblyman, is on the move into the future. A $750,000 state grant received in October 2018 fueled a $2.2 million expansion plan, according to Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky.
The company has already expanded by 75 jobs, and is aiming to hire another 50, according to Zakrevsky.
Any bright high-school or college grad – perhaps with code-writing skills, but certainly with curiosity – should consider a look at Custom Electronics, Pentaris said.
The first six months, you’ll be working on the assembly line, probably soldering, “to get into the flow,” he said. Then there’s assembling power boards, building battery packs, coding and testing, testing, testing to ensure dependability before products leave the plant.
“You let people expand their natural talents to where they want to go,” the CEO said of his hiring strategy. “We don’t need workers. We need workers who can become leaders.”
Everyone’s future these days is tied to renewable energy, and Custom Electronics is focused on
a key component – long-lasting lithium-ion batteries.
Generally, electricity is generated and used or lost. But lights must shine at night, when no solar energy can be generated. And, this time of year, homes must be heated during the day, whether winds turn windmills or not.
The company’s Power & Energy Division is already providing portable lithium-ion power packs – the brand name: Briteshot – that allow lights and cameras to operate in remote locations – and even on the streets of Manhattan.
With Briteshot, there’s no need to run electrical lines to the scene, or for on-site gasoline-powered generators, which New York City is in the process of prohibiting.
Pentaris didn’t want to mention any TV show by name, but did say a certain long-running police and courtroom drama filmed on NYC streets – yes, that one – is powered by packs assembled on Browne Street.
The company hired 39 people in December for Briteshot alone.
Freeing customers from the interruptible grid, Custom Electronics’ batteries are finding new uses. For instance, its batteries eliminate split-second losses of power that can allow hackers to breach bank customers’ personal data.
Other companies sell systems; Custom Electronics “provides solution,” said Pentaris.
Custom Electronics is also providing drones for civil and military use, upgrading HVAC systems – and is talking with the government of Mexico about batteries to electrify remote villages for the first time.
“It’s a big country,” said the executive, when asked about the possibilities there.
Custom Electronics is collaborating with companies in Massachusetts, Connecticut and, most recently, Las Vegas, which may lead to their relocating here.
There is some urgency to hire people. “If (all this innovation) is gradual,” said Pentaris, “we’ll be OK. If it’s sudden, that’s where the problem will be.”
Regardless, Pentaris is confident. “No one’s cornered the market on original thought,” he said.