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Phillips, Rojek looking forward to 2011

ALBANY, Ga. -- Thrush Aircraft Vice President of Sales and Human Resources Erick Rojek and Applied Fiber Telecommunications President John T. Phillips have reasons to smile as their companies gear up for 2011.

Both are introducing new products into their respective markets.

Thrush, one of the world's largest manufacturers of agricultural aircraft, has partnered with General Electric to equip the new-generation 510G with GE's new H80 turbine. Rojek says it's the most dramatic innovation in ag aviation since the introduction of the turbine engine.

"In the past, we've strictly used Pratt-Whitney engines," Rojek said. "This partnership with GE makes us the only OEM (original equipment manufacturer) on board with GE in the ag industry. We will get a lot of man-hours from GE on this project. We'll have access to their marketing arm and their brand.

"They (GE) are going after Pratt-Whitney hard, and P-W will get better because of the competition. So will we."

At Applied Fiber, Phillips says the company and affiliates, Gould Technology and Cicada Technology, are expecting significant revenue increases in all areas of the fiber optic industry in 2011.

Gould has been selected as the lead optical fiber splitter supplier supporting the modernization and life extension of the U.S. Navy's Trident Missile Guidance System.

Gould has been awarded a multimillion-dollar Life of Type Buy (LOTB) contract to supply several thousands of premium grade polarization maintaining fiber splitters through March 2012.

"Albany is blessed with massive broadband capacity and redundancy," said Phillips. "Our customer base is becoming excited again about future prospects for fiber optic installations -- both inside and outside plant -- as well as horizontal and vertical. Next-Gen data and communications networks are being rolled out and introduced to the public, and these all run with fiber optic technology.

"The landscape of the communications industry is constantly changing, driving the need for new products and technologies. Our primary challenge is focusing on which opportunities to pursue."

Rojek says Thrush's future focus is on an emerging South American market -- both in cropdusting and firefighting.

"Sixty to 70 percent of our business is already international, and some countries are beginning to realize that they will have to grow their own food and that's where we come in," Rojek said. "We are also pushing our 710 model (with a 710-gallon hopper capacity) for use in aerial firefighting."

As far as the new H80 powered aircraft, Thrush has built three prototypes and is currently awaiting Federal Aviation Administration certification to begin production.

"We have to get the certification because of the brand-new engine," Rojek said. "We've already presold five planes -- one to Kazakhstan, another to Australia and three in the states -- and we're working on a tight timetable, but right now we are at the mercy of the FAA."

The new aircraft costs on average just more than $1.6 million.

Rojek added that the company has also rebranded itself with a new logo, graphic identity and aircraft paint scheme.

"We've decided we need to do a better job of getting our name out there and getting our swagger back," he said.

At Applied Fiber, Phillips noted that Cicada was also poised for growth.

Cicada Vice President Kirt Phillips said, "We are constantly expanding our infrastructure in this region and nationally, bringing newer technology to metropolitan areas as well as more rural areas.

"In working with national telephone and cable TV companies, we have established a name synonymous with quality and dependability. We have studied past purchasing levels and have implemented a predetermined inventory of our high- demand products. This allows us to react quickly when natural disasters occur or when a man-made mistake occurs.

"Cicada is working on several product designs for a national telephone provider, as well as military versions of our standard telecom products. Through 'Work Ready' certifications and programs such as G.R.A.D. (Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development) sites, we anticipate a year of positive growth."