Gleason Corp. is adding employees at its Rochester headquarters. The manufacturer has quietly but steadily increased its local workforce by more than 150 people in the past 18 months and is looking to add 40 more.
"We are a well-kept secret in Rochester," said John Perrotti, Gleason president and CEO.
Gleason employs roughly 700 people at its University Avenue site. That is up from 650 in 2011 and 550 in 2010.
The local operation's current head count is slightly higher than it was before the 2008 global recession, which prompted job cuts, some through voluntary early retirement, company leaders said.
Ranked by the size of its workforce, Gleason was ninth on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list of manufacturers.
Perrotti said the job openings are across the board, from machine operators to engineers.
The firm's Rochester operation-one of nine sites worldwide-is Gleason's largest and had sales growth of 40 percent from 2010 to 2011. Driving that increase were international orders from the automotive industry for Gleason's gear-production equipment and tooling products, he said.
Perrotti expects output from the local operation to be higher this year than last, with record sales from the site. He declined to break out sales numbers by site but said the company had sales of $625 million in 2011, up from 2010 but lower than 2008 sales of more than $700 million. Perrotti said the global recession hit Gleason after 2008, but annual sales figures have been growing each year since then.
China is Gleason's largest end market, Perrotti said. Gleason is getting ready to open a facility there, combining operations from two leased sites, one in Suzhou, in China's Jiangsu province. The facility will employ about 100 workers.
Perrotti said the growth overseas has contributed to more work in Rochester.
"This facility has benefited from our expansion into places like China and India," Perrotti said, noting that many subassemblies used in those countries are made here. "Our strategy in China and India is creating jobs in Rochester."
Gleason develops, manufactures and sells gear-production machinery and related equipment. The company was founded in Rochester in 1865. Its products are used by customers in automotive, truck, aircraft, agriculture, mining, windpower, construction, power tool and marine industries, as well as various industrial equipment markets.
Gleason has manufacturing operations in Rochester; Rockford, Ill.; Dayton, Ohio; Munich and Ludwigsburg, Germany; Studen, Switzerland; Bangalore, India; and Suzhou, China. It has sales and service offices throughout North and South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
The company has taken steps to expand its network internationally.
This month, Gleason announced it had formed a strategic alliance with the German company Manutec VaWe Robotersystem GmbH. The partners will cooperate in the development and sale of robots for processes done on large-module gears.
The products will be sold through Gleason's worldwide sales channels, with technical support provided by both Gleason and Manutec, the companies said. The alliance is one of two Gleason formed recently with German firms.
Previously, Gleason had announced a strategic alliance with the German firm Gebr. Heller Maschinenfabrik GmbH to serve the global gear-manufacturing technology market. Gebr. Heller Maschinenfabrik develops, makes and markets machine tools and manufacturing systems for metal-cutting processes.
The firms are working together on developing and selling five-axis machining centers for gear-production applications.
Gleason also has grown recently through acquisitions.
In September, it acquired the assets and business of K2 Plastics Inc., which company leaders said would broaden its reach in the gear market, particularly in industries such as electronics and medical equipment.
Located in Bergen, Genesee County, the firm employs 10 workers and produces precision plastic gears and other complex plastic parts.
Gleason occupies roughly 400,000 square feet of the 725,000 square feet at its site on University Avenue. The firm leases space to other businesses and has four companies housed there now. Roughly 25,000 square feet is available for lease, Perrotti said.
Gleason will continue to invest in its Rochester sites, he said, adding equipment and processes that can improve operations. The business has invested roughly $20 million in Rochester operations since 2006, he said.
Filling the vacant positions has been a challenge, Perrotti said, because skilled workers are difficult to find.
Kevin Kelley, executive director of the Rochester Tooling & Machining Association, said manufacturing firms of all sizes in the region are looking for workers.
A shortage of skilled workers for some jobs continues to be a challenge that his organization is trying to address, Kelley said. The RTMA works with local academic institutions and other organizations such as the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, promoting the benefits of careers in precision manufacturing.
There is still a misconception about jobs in the manufacturing sector, Kelley said, and people tend to think of them as low-paying, even dirty jobs. He noted many positions are well-paid jobs that provide a career path.
"It's like trying to turn a battleship around," Kelley said of the effort to change public perceptions.
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