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Rochester Top 100: Timely investments set company up to soar

Rochester Business Journal
January 22, 2016

Leaders at Apollo Optical Systems Inc. are expecting increases in sales and staff in 2016, driven by growth in the consumer electronics market.

CEO Michael Morris said investments the firm made during the global economic recession a few years ago have helped with the company’s recent success.

He is projecting employment to increase to 68 employees by year-end, up from 39 employees in 2015. The firm also employs several temporary workers.

“We’re looking to create manufacturing jobs in Rochester,” Morris said, noting he believes the Rochester area is the manufacturing hub for optics and photonics in the United States.

He also estimates a 61 percent increase in sales this year.

The projected growth of the local optics and photonics industry—led by the announcement last year that Rochester would be home to the $600 million American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics—also will lead to more jobs, Morris said.

“There are a lot of opportunities for jobs in this sector,” he said.

Apollo Optical ranked 16th on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list of optics and imaging firms.

The business provides lens design, engineering and manufacturing of custom precision optical components and systems for customers in the medical, defense, automotive, illumination and commercial products markets. It can complete jobs that range from prototypes to production volumes.

Morris, who previously worked as a scientist and professor at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics, co-founded Rochester Photonics Corp. in 1989. The firm specialized in the design, prototyping and manufacturing of optical components and subsystems.

Rochester Photonics was acquired by Corning Inc. in 1999. Market troubles, however, led to Corning’s decision to shutter the operation in 2002. Shortly after, Morris, who had been leading the operation at Corning, led a management buyout of the business.

He spun out Apollo Optical Systems and RPC Photonics, which specializes in the design and development of optical elements and systems for display and illumination applications for commercial products, medical products and government systems, in 2003.

Both businesses are in Henrietta.

Recent growth at Apollo Optical largely has come from the consumer electronics market where the company supplies customers with optical sensors and imaging subsystems.

One particular area where the firm is seeing growth is in 3-D imaging, or gesture recognition, where a wireless connection to a computer recognizes the user, Morris said.

An example of such an end product Apollo supplies parts for is the Xbox Kinect, a game played without a controller and instead by voice and gestures.

Also, the firm is providing polymer injection molded optical components for systems used in the virtual reality market, where more devices are slated to hit the worldwide market this year.

Other areas of growth for the firm are expected in the medical devices market and in solid state lighting applications for commercial customers, Morris said.

The company is highly diversified, and not too dependent on one customer or market, he added. Some 80 percent of Apollo Optical’s customers are based in the United States, but its components are shipped worldwide for assembly.

Thomas Battley, executive director of the New York Photonics & Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, agreed Apollo Optical serves a wide range of customers.

Having such a wide client base means firms must have a broad range of expertise. In Apollo Optical’s case, that includes knowledge of lens design, mold making and the specific optical indexes of different polymer optics, Battley said.

“Then it all has to go into high-quality production with zero defects,” he added. “It’s very impressive stuff.”

While Apollo Optical is poised for growth, Morris is making sure the firm does not do too much too soon.

“Growth is fun, but it needs to be managed,” Morris said.

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2016 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to greaterrochesterchamber.com.

Apollo Optical Systems Inc.
Year founded: 2003
Top executive: Michael Morris, CEO
2015 ranking: 38
Current employment: 39
Headquarters: Henrietta
Website: apollooptical.com

1/22/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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