Ultra Electronics ICE hopes to build a new facility that’s triple the size of its current building on Amherst Avenue within the next two years, according to CEO Randy O’Boyle.
“We’ve done nothing but grow,” he said about the Manhattan aerospace electronics company.
O’Boyle revealed this information Wednesday morning during a visit from U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, to the current facility.
Ultra ICE produces electronic components for commercial, military and higher-end aerospace purposes. Founded in a Kansas State University dorm room as ICE Corporation in 1973, Ultra Electronics, a United Kingdom-based company, purchased the company in 2014.
O’Boyle said Ultra’s acquisition helped the local company increase business opportunities, grow from 42 to 60 employees, and allowed them to offer health insurance for employee dependents.
“I can honestly say they’ve been a great steward, and they’ve only taken actions that will propel our growth,” he said.
During the tour, Marshall got to see everything from component assembly to the testing area at Ultra ICE. O’Boyle said he invited Marshall after meeting with him in Washington, D.C.
Marshall said he came out of an interest in seeing how various industries in the state are doing. “I always want to see the economics of Kansas,” he said. “What’s working and what’s not.”
Some of Marshall’s focus during the tour dealt with an international viewpoint.
“So much of this business is done in Mexico,” Marshall said. “How can you compete with the labor cost in Manhattan, Kansas?”
O’Boyle said the company’s advantage over other operations is everything is done in-house.
“We bring the power of engineering and mate it with manufacturing,” he said. “We design, manufacture, test and do everything here soup to nuts.”
Marshall also discussed China in relation to potential technological theft.
“We think that China is stealing $600 billion worth of our technology every year,” he said. “This is what they’re after.”
“They’re after anything they can that they don’t have to design themselves because that can accelerate their entry into the marketplace,” he said.
Marshall said the U.S. has to hold China accountable by targeting specific companies that are “cheating and stealing” rather than the country as a whole.
“What I’m trying to avoid is this overall blanket sweep on China because they’re our number three ag export market,” he said.
Marshall said he wants to keep people accountable and make sure Kansans are getting the proper education in terms of computer science.
He held up two integrated circuits, which are chips that power modern electrical devices, to make a point. Great Bend native Jack Kilby is credited as the inventor of the first integrated circuit while working at Texas Instruments in 1958.
“Little schools in Kansas can lead to something like this,” Marshall said.