Tag Archives: Able Aerospace

Lee Benson

Able Engineering, Able Aerospace hit new heights

Neither the recession nor sequestration has slowed one Arizona aerospace company.

“For the last 12 years, we are growing at better than a 20 percent compounded annual growth rate,” said Lee Benson, CEO of Able Engineering and Able Aerospace. “This year, we could grow as much as 35 percent.”

Since buying the business that would become Able Group of Companies in 1993, Benson has taken the company from $300,000 in sales in 1994 to a projected $100 million in sales this year.

Able’s two main divisions — Able Engineering & Component Services and Able Aerospace — provides component repair, overhaul and approved replacement parts solutions for rotorcraft and fixed-wing aircraft; and also manages Able’s FAA approved replacement parts inventory.

“We intentionally designed our company to be recession proof,” Benson said. “We knew we needed a lot of customers to do that and we now have 1,000 customers in 60 countries.”

Az Business talked to the man behind Able’s success story.

Az Business: What’s the biggest difference between being CEO of Able and leading a more traditional company?

Lee Benson: Complexity. We do about 4,000 jobs a month and every job can have as many as 1,500 pieces in it. We’re processing more than 100,000 parts a month and millions of operations and everything is special handling. Of the approximately 500 employees, we have 74 unique roles, all with their own special skills required. So it’s really complex business as opposed to running a restaurant or hardware store.

AB: How do you maintain your workforce with the need for so many specialists?

LB: On the engineering side, we have about 40 engineers who develop repairs and reverse engineer parts to go into the maintenance operations that we have. ASU and UA have been great sources for that. For the aircraft mechanics, there are military sites we go to and we recruit from them. For machinists, the Maricopa Community Colleges network is doing a fantastic job of developing machinists to come in here. For all 74 unique roles that we have, we have a special process for finding people to fill those roles. One other thing we do to augment the process to keep up with the growth is we partner with Goodwill of Central Arizona. They put a full-time person here who does nothing but recruit for all these roles and they’ve done a fantastic job.

AB: What qualities do you have that have helped you build Able?

LB: Patience, discipline and rigor around the managements process. I have the patience to say, “It’s going to take time. Don’t panic.” I have the discipline to make sure we keep a certain amount of cash in the company to grow, where a lot of business owners will take money out too soon and then when there is a downturn or an issue, they cannot survive that.

AB: How did you have the foresight to build Able into what it has become?

LB: Wherever I’ve been at in my life, I can always see the next step or opportunity. I was the company’s first employee in 1982. When I bought the company in 1993, we had lost all of our business overnight and were left with three employees, including myself.  We went in a completely different direction and i could easily see getting to $5 million in the aerospace industry. Once we got there, I could easily see $10 million and then $20 million. Now, this year, it will be close to $100 million and we have a pretty clear path to a half-billion dollars. Seeing the next steps is easy as long as you’re fully engaged in the game and you have all the team members and every brain in the game. You just have to keep marching forward and going after it.


Industry leaders view aerospace prospects

Through a joint effort led by Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority, Able Aerospace Services and SRP, industry leaders at next week’s MRO Americas convention in Phoenix will gain a birds-eye view of expansion and relocation opportunities in the Valley. The opportunity comes courtesy of a VIP aerial helicopter tour, as well as a reception and tour at Able Aerospace Services—a $20 million build-to-suit success story at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

“We are extremely proud of our relocation to Gateway, not only because of our expansion into a state-of-the-art facility but also because of the partnership that this building represents,” said Lee Benson, CEO of Able Aerospace Services. “This was a collaboration in every sense. We are honored to share our story with others in our industry who might benefit from these same opportunities.”

A total of three VIP tours will depart from downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 on a Bell 212 helicopter provided by event partner SRP. The tour will fly participants over Greater Phoenix for an aerial view of the Valley, then make an intermediate stop at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport for a reception and tour of the new $20 million Able Aerospace Services headquarters—an industry leading repair, overhaul, design and manufacturing facility, and a leading aftermarket supplier of FAA-approved replacement parts.

The Able event will include a short presentation on the cost savings incentives that made its new facility possible, and provide an opportunity for guests to talk directly with local leaders and partners in the MRO aerial tour, including the City of Phoenix, City of Mesa, Town of Gilbert, Town of Queen Creek, City of Apache Junction and the Gila River Indian Community. The return flight will fly over Falcon Field, then back to downtown Phoenix.

“This is a truly unique way for us to share Greater Phoenix’s regional assets with aerospace leaders from across the globe,” said Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Business Development Director Michael Merk. “In the span of about 100 minutes, we will showcase the best and brightest of our development and expansion opportunities—from the sky and from the state-of-the-art Able Aerospace Services operation that has made Gateway Airport a true manufacturing destination.”

MRO Americas provides a world-class venue for the aviation/aerospace industry to exchange ideas, share best practices, gain knowledge, generate new business leads and cement existing relationships with other commercial air transport, maintenance, repair and overhaul leaders. The three-day event is held at a different U.S. location each year. This year, it is being held April 8 – 10 at the Phoenix Convention Center.