NEWPORT NEWS – While many companies were laying off employees during the pandemic, Craig and Ivonne Collier of Collier Aerospace in Newport News took a different approach.
“We said, no, we are going to stick this out, and we’re going to turn our attention inward,” Ivonne Colllier said.
With less time devoted to customer interactions, the company, which specializes in engineering software for the aerospace industry, took advantage of the opportunity to develop new software.
“We put our developers on it,” she said. “We had our engineers contribute, and we came out on the other end of covid in an incredibly good position.”
The proof is in the numbers. The husband-and-wife team started the company in 1995, and it expanded to four employees within the first two or three years. It slowly grew to 15 but stayed there for years. They now are at almost 45 and hiring.
Craig Collier said the company’s growth was flat for the first 15 to 18 years.
“But it’s grown steadily since then, particularly like last year, we had an 83 percent growth,” he said. “And this year, we anticipate growth just as high, if not more.”
Both point to two factors for that growth, one of which is better software developed during the pandemic.
“There were some fundamental things that were based on platforms that were fairly old,” Ivonne Collier said. “We just knew that we could make it better software and easier to use.”
The second factor was their workforce.
“A lot of the young people we hired five years ago, ten years ago are really in the sweet spots of their careers. Now they’re in their late 20s, early 30s,” Craig Collier said. “And we just operate much better as a company. We’re really a well-oiled machine.”
Next month, the company, which is in City Center in Newport News, is sponsoring a HyperX users’ conference at NASA Langley. The two-day event, scheduled for June 14 and June 15, is free and will include dinner and a networking event.
“We think it is long overdue,” Craig Collier said.
They were going to have it to coincide with their 25th anniversary, but that was during covid.
“Covid is about over now. We just said bite the bullet, it’s time to do it,” he said, adding they hope to make it an annual event.
The two, who have engineering degrees from North Carolina State University, have worked with all the big names in the aerospace industry, including NASA Langley, Boeing, Lockheed, Space X, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, and Gulfstream. They enjoy working with space launch and space tourism.
“One way you can describe … what we do is kind of the bones of any aircraft structure. We do the structure,” Ivonne Collier said. “We do what you can picture with your eyes.”
That means they don’t do electrical systems or fuel systems.
It’s the same with rockets, said Craig Collier.
“Anything that you see from the ground, or anything that you would see if you’re inside of the vehicle,” he said. “We do the things that you can touch with your hands.”
Despite dealing with flying for a living, neither one has the desire to learn how to fly.
“Not as a pilot,” CraigCollier said.
Ivonne Collier pointed out their son does have a pilot’s license.
“I like to think that was influenced by us making planes,” she said. “We have to fly for work so much. We just let other people take the wheel.”
As they look back on how far they have come, it’s not a total surprise.
“Maybe we didn’t imagine it, but we did dream it,” Ivonne Collier said.
Collier Aeropsace is located at 760 Pilot House Dr. For more information on the company, and to register for the event, go to https://collieraerospace.com.