Bill Lee, a Joyce native and CEO of Airborne Environmental Control Systems, told those who attended the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday his startup company has already captured $200 million in contracts. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Bringing it home: Airborne CEO, a Joyce native, tells of progress so far

PORT ANGELES — The CEO of Airborne Environmental Control Systems, a startup company relocating its headquarters to Port Angeles, said Wednesday his company has already captured $200 million in business.

“We expect to hit $1 billion probably by 2026,” said Bill Lee, a Joyce native who signed a five-year lease with the Port of Port Angeles in May to move his business to Port Angeles.

He told those who attended the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday that after growing up in Joyce and graduating from Joyce High School, he knew he wanted to bring his business to Port Angeles.

He had operated it virtually throughout the first year, with his New York home being the official headquarters for the company.

Employees worked remotely from across the country to design advanced cooling systems for the federal Department of Defense.

He said those cooling systems are “like a refrigerator, but a really cool one.”

Airborne’s products deal with temperatures ranging from 4 Kelvin — that’s about minus 452 degrees Fahrenheit — up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

But he had to contract with other companies across the country to manufacture the parts, he said.

“I got tired of paying everyone to do that,” he said. “We contracted out the manufacturing, assembly and testing.”

Since announcing he was moving to Port Angeles and that Airborne was to manufacture its own products in Port Angeles, Lee said he has received some 150 resumes.

He said in May he hopes to create upward of 100 local jobs throughout the next five years, calling it a dream to bring jobs to Port Angeles.

“People are interested,” he said. “We’re finding that there’s a lot of talent here.”

He told the crowd he has been in conversations with Peninsula College to find ways to teach students the skills they need.

“We’re working with [PC] in phase two to put together CNC training and 3-D printing for metal and composites,” he said.

Lee has also made a goal to work with locals as he expands his company, he said.

Airborne has moved everything to the Peninsula, he said, including general council, legal, finance and insurance.

“We’re working with no less than 21 local companies,” he said. “I just signed a contract with a shop right in Port Townsend yesterday to get machine parts for us.”

Lee said he has hired five local employees already, though the office space isn’t yet built; it should be finished in the coming weeks.

He said Airborne has invested $479,000 into its facility in Port Angeles and that by the fourth quarter of 2018, Airborne expects to have invested $1.54 million.

That $1.54 million includes about $500,000 in matching funds from the Port of Port Angeles, Airborne’s landlord, he said.

The $500,000 is for “basic improvements” in the 10,000-square-foot area into which Airborne plans to expand, said John Nutter, director of finance and administration for the port.

Improvements include new lighting, a heat pump system, electrical, floor coverings and other improvements, he said.

The port is still negotiating the terms of Airborne’s lease for that space, he said.

Lee said Airborne also received $218,000 from the state’s Strategic Reserve Fund to help relocate to Port Angeles.

Airborne committed to a five-year lease of Suite E at 2007 S. O St. with plans to expand across the street.

During the first phase, the company will lease 5,000 square feet of space, with plans of expanding an additional 10,000 square feet for production around April 2018.

Then the company plans to expand another 10,000 square feet for engineering and office space around September 2018.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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