Our Start Part 5: Full Circle

by Liberty Electronics

The autumn of 2001 found Liberty Electronics’ employees full of confidence in the future. Years of developing strong customer relationships and providing high quality products had solidified Liberty’s reputation within the manufacturing community. The company had built on this foundation by attaining the International Standard Certification ISO9001 three years previously, shifting from a narrow focus on military quality assurance to an international quality system that allowed its work to branch out into the global market. And employees looked forward to moving into their new facility in just a few months’ time, a space that would allow them to fulfill contracts for General Electric, Siemens, and their first international order for an Israeli tactical air-launched decoy designed to fool enemy radar systems.

When 19 al-Qaeda terrorists flew four commercial airliners into U.S. civilian and government targets on September 11, “It was like watching a movie, completely surreal,” recalls Liberty President John Dumot.[i] Employees gathered around computer screens in shock, trying to understand the events unfolding in front of them. The full horror of thousands of lives lost and injured quickly became apparent; the economic toll soon followed. With over $10 billion of damage inflicted and an enemy to pursue, the federal government shifted its focus to Homeland Security and Liberty’s government contracts dried up. The nation’s airline and rail markets contracted severely as well. With “more pilots than planes,” no one was buying aircraft repair parts.[ii] Across the U.S. and at home in Franklin, things looked bleak.

Liberty, however, had never flinched in the face of a crisis, and it had no intention of doing so in the difficult days of the early 2000s. Employees gritted their teeth and hung on, remaining true to their company’s ethos of hard work, innovation, and integrity. When Liberty secured a contract with Westinghouse in 2004 for its nuclear power generation segment, the impact was enormous. With the new facility’s focus on cellular manufacturing and six sigma quality, an initiative driven by Liberty’s vision for lean and efficient production, the company was perfectly poised to meet the needs of its customers in the new millennium. Its state-of-the-art wire processing facility mirrored the 1986 clean-room production floor, a tradition of investment in high quality technology that best served Liberty’s customer base.

Liberty’s work came full circle as it re-entered the aerospace sector during the Iraq War. Starting with a Honeywell Urbana contract, then Honeywell Albuquerque, “it was like dominoes” moving into the field.[iii] Tactical ground equipment also came into play. In 2007, BAE Systems came to Liberty under pressure and behind schedule to get its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to troops overseas. Officials told Liberty in no uncertain terms, “Delivery is king, quality is queen.” [iv] With the military estimating that MRAP usage would reduce IED attack casualties by up to 80 percent, and with the knowledge that Liberty employees, their families, and friends were deployed in the Middle East, the burden was intense.[v] Liberty quickly got the program back on schedule, shipping 26,000 assemblies in nine months, peaking at 5,300 in one month alone. The subsequent years saw the company attain certification to the AS9100 standard (an aerospace quality management system more rigorous than ISO), and NADCAP (National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program). In 2012, Liberty was named the Raytheon TOW Missile Supplier of the Year, a “very significant” honor.[vi] It was, perhaps, fitting that Director of Business Development Scott Anderson’s son Ben, a Marine Corps lieutenant, was training with the TOW missiles that very year at The Basic School.

Liberty TOW 300x212 | Our Start Part 5: Full Circle, Liberty Electronics®In its 22 years of operations, some things have changed at Liberty: the company has over 300 employees working in four local facilities, which boast a combined manufacturing space of 150,000 square feet. However, its core values of innovation, integrity, and service have not altered. They remain as a constant guiding light, providing Liberty the will and the means to produce the highest quality wiring harnesses, cable assemblies, and electrical cabinet assemblies in the industry.



Read Part 1: Innovation  –  Read Part 2: Investment  Read Part 3: Integrity – Read Part 4: Moving Forward

Liberty Electronics Inc Modern Building scaled | Our Start Part 5: Full Circle, Liberty Electronics®Notes:

[i] John Dumot (President, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Senator Joe Biden, speaking on MRAP amendment to the U.S. Senate, on 28 March 2007, 110th  Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 153, no. 54.
[vi] Dumot, interview with author.

Our Start Part 4: Moving Forward

by Liberty Electronics

Great accomplishments often have small beginnings, an idea with which Liberty Electronics is more than familiar. Once a business concept found only on paper for a university research project, by the early 1990s Liberty was a fully formed corporation coming into its own. The company had deliberately focused on defense programs since its 1986 founding, meeting a specific need during the late Cold War and the Gulf War to provide high quality wiring harnesses and cable assemblies to the defense industry. That, however, was all about to change.

In 1994, Liberty President John Dumot visited General Electric’s rail plant in the nearby town of Grove City, observing as Liberty wires were put into GE locomotive engines. “It really started with just a few wires, a pretty small job,” he recalls.[i] Liberty’s management saw the need to diversify the company with projects like the GE assemblies and, working with Franklin businessman John Reib as CEO, they sought to stabilize business after the whirlwind start-up period. But they didn’t have a specific plan, until Dumot pointed out a potential issue with GE’s assembly design during his visit to the production floor. GE turned the issue right back to Liberty and challenged the company: “Can you do something better?”[ii] Liberty could indeed. Initial work brought the cost of the assembly down from $1,900 to $1,100. Unfortunately, there were 4,200 engines already in the field with the defective design, and it was only months before all of them had failed or were failing. With a disaster on its hands, GE tracked down Liberty’s Vice President of Sales Robert Hoffman while he worked out at the local YMCA to request 4,200 replacement harnesses.[iii] Liberty’s production team swung into action, putting the GE engines back into working order.

unnamed 191x300 | Our Start Part 4: Moving Forward, Liberty Electronics®The project was Liberty’s first non-military contract, and its quality provided the foundation for the next decade of business. The early 1990s concentrated primarily on GE and rail, but as the decade wore on Liberty expanded into the larger transportation field. From its founding, Liberty focused on being “the finest, most technically competent wire manufacturing organization ever assembled.”[iv] The ambition was proved out on multiple occasions, such as in 1997, when a Bombardier division shut down its own internal wiring capabilities and handed over all its wire assembly needs to Liberty. The work was incredibly important for Liberty’s 1998—2001 period, along with other major projects like assemblies for Siemens’ light rail vehicle program for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and Atlanta’s MARTA trains.[v]

Transportation took Liberty across the United States and even into international ventures, from close at home in Pittsburgh, to Taipei, Puerto Rico, and Toronto. The company’s future looked bright as the new millennium began. Liberty prepared to move into its new Franklin plant, doubling its manufacturing space to 30,000 square feet and increasing its production capacity.[vi] The decision to stay in Franklin was a deliberate one. Despite many attractive offers to move out of state, as well as the challenge of cleaning up environmental waste from an old foundry in order to build its new facility, Liberty was committed to Northwestern Pennsylvania. Local companies and individuals were still stockholders, invested in Liberty’s success just as they had in the early days. And 256 employees started 2001 ready to continue Liberty’s 15-year tradition of quality.[vii] No one could envision the radical changes coming to the company and the entire country in the months to come.


  Read Part 1: Innovation  –  Read Part 2: Investment  Read Part 3: Integrity – Read Part 5: Full Circle



Liberty Electronics Inc Modern Building scaled | Our Start Part 4: Moving Forward, Liberty Electronics®Notes:

[i] John Dumot (President, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Larry Snow, “Letter from the President,” Liberty Electronics prospectus, c. 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.
[v] Mark Jacoby (Marketing Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[vi] John J. Dumot (Vice President of Operations, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[vii] “Employment Levels,” Liberty Electronics archives.

Our Start Part 3: Integrity

by Liberty Electronics

Mark Jacoby 770358 edited | Our Start Part 3: Integrity, Liberty Electronics®

In the spring of 1986, Liberty Electronics could look back on a wildly successful year. Its founders had taken the company from a research project to a living, breathing corporation. The community of Franklin, Pennsylvania, rose to the occasion to make this innovative new enterprise welcome, through financial backing and filling production team roles. Work was underway on various military contracts, such as the Navy’s CANTASS Towed Sonar Array and ADCAP torpedo and the Army’s Chinook helicopter.

Given its no-nonsense work ethic and will to succeed, it is perhaps no surprise that Liberty prevailed when tough times greeted it the following year. By March 1987, production contracts were elusive and work on the assembly floor was temporarily halted. Numerous bids and proposals were sent out, but to no avail. Liberty’s stakeholders, however, were friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Its team refused to let them down. “It was all about community,” recalls Brian Barnett, Liberty’s vice president of manufacturing at the time.[i]

Reib Dumot 349134 edited 300x202 | Our Start Part 3: Integrity, Liberty Electronics®Going without pay, hanging on to hope by their fingernails, Liberty’s remaining employees gritted their teeth and went to work. Current President John Dumot mortgaged his house twice to cover payroll. More financing was secured from local businessman John Reib, president of ConAir, who also helped navigate the company through its difficult time. Marketing Manager Mark Jacoby drove and slept in his own pick-up truck on a trip from Pennsylvania to Florida, intent on securing a bid for the LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting InfraRed system for Night) targeting and electronics systems used in F-18 fighter jets. “We knew if we could get through a few months, that there was something at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “It was a testament to our dedication.”[ii]

That dedication carried the day. Liberty won the LANTIRN bid, and within six months put the project to rights after delays and failure from two previous contractors had left it two years behind schedule.[iii] In June 1988, Liberty stood on firmer footing, with a new management team led by Dumot. Work on LANTIRN secured the company’s reputation in the aerospace industry as one of quality and trustworthiness. It was so influential that, in 1990, Liberty was awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Award for Excellence, a high honor.[iv]

The LANTRIN program, along with the TADS-PNVS (Target Acquisition Designation System-Pilot Night Vision System) assemblies for the Apache helicopter, kept Liberty busy throughout the early 1990s. Both projects were crucial to the U.S. military during the First Gulf War (1990-1991), and used specifically against Iraqi tanks in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.[v] The work echoed later defense programs, such as the MRAP armored vehicle assemblies done for the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002. In a county with ten percent of its population listed as veterans, the programs resonated with Liberty’s leadership and its workforce.[vi] These wiring harnesses and cable assemblies went into equipment used by their families and neighbors, and the production team came to be “regarded by the Department of Defense as one of, if not the finest, groups of specialized workers in the business.”[vii]

Successful in the military sector, Liberty soon branched out into commercial areas. Starting in 1994 with General Electric Transportation Systems assemblies, Liberty has now completed hundreds of high-reliability commercial contracts. With both military and commercial ventures, one thing remains constant, from the founding to the present day: Liberty’s work ethic and commitment to quality has built lasting relationships in the industry. Its contracts are based on the trust that “Liberty will get the job done, and done well.”[viii]

Liberty Electronics set itself apart from its very foundation, by focusing on innovative technology produced with integrity and hard work. No matter the circumstances, Liberty’s leadership and work force has practiced this ethos to the benefit of itself, its customers, and its community. At no time is this more evident in the company’s history than in its earliest days. In fair weather and foul, Liberty remained true to its character, and each year built on those traits with a spirit of determination. In the words of one of the founders, “Some people may believe it’s a question of guts or lack of brains, but I believe it’s the grand adventure. It’s going to work.”[ix] And so it has.

  Read Part 1: Innovation  –  Read Part 2: Investment  – Read Part 4: Moving Forward – Read Part 5: Full Circle



Liberty Electronics Inc Modern Building scaled | Our Start Part 3: Integrity, Liberty Electronics®


[i] Brian Barnett (Programs Director, retired, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[ii] Mark Jacoby (Marketing Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Tom Eldred, “Liberty Electronics’ time has come,” The News-Herald (Franklin, Pa.), 18 July 1991.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] U.S. Census Bureau, “Quick Facts: Venango County, Pennsylvania,” https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/venangocountypennsylvania/PST045216, accessed 25 May 2018.
[vii] Eldred, “Liberty Electronics’ time has come.”
[viii] Mark Jacoby, interview with author.
[ix] Judith Etzel, “Native Son Finds Challenge Here,” The Derrick (Oil City, Pa.), 30 September 1985.

Our Start Part 2: Investment

by Liberty Electronics

After a pell-mell race to form a company, choose a site, and secure financing, Liberty Electronics started the new year of 1986 enthusiastically readying its Franklin building and marketing its products. The founders envisioned an innovative company working in state-of-the-art facilities to produce much-needed cable and wiring assemblies for military and commercial industries. They had materials and a sophisticated cleanroom environment in which to work. The next piece of the puzzle was the investment that continues to pay dividends to the current day—a well-trained, dedicated, local workforce.

When one of the founders visited family in neighboring Oil City during the spring of 1985, he was shocked at the region’s economic hardships and the toll they had taken on the community. Looking at his boyhood home, he told the local press, “There was a sadness I felt because of the depressed area and the belief I had that it didn’t have to be that way.”[i]

Once prosperous thanks to the oil and gas, steel, and lumber industries, Northwest Pennsylvania was feeling the vice-like grip of the 1980s’ Rust Belt economy. As the nation trended away from those sectors, areas along the Rust Belt were left behind, triggering high unemployment and poverty rates, declining populations, and economic malaise. From 1976 to 1986, over half of Venango County’s manufacturing jobs were lost.[ii] Area companies had either shut their doors or downsized their workforces, and the view from inside was grim. Liberty’s Human Relations Manager Linda Shouey vividly recalls standing in the unemployment line, pregnant with twins, hoping and praying for an opportunity to help support her family. “There was no work, there were no jobs. Anywhere.”[iii]

Optimistic about Liberty’s future, management put out the call for employees before financing and building were complete. Area newspapers excitedly reported that 600 applications would be handed out, of which less than 60 would be considered. Of that 60, only 30 to 35 would be hired. Mark Jacoby, Liberty’s marketing manager, had recently returned from a job-hunting trip when he heard about Franklin’s latest business venture. He arrived to line up at the Job Service office the night before, and he wasn’t the first one there.[iv] The local press estimated over 600 people showed up to claim an application, though Jacoby argues the final tally could well have reached over 1,000.[v]

The determination to find and maintain a steady, fair wage showed in the dedication of Liberty’s newly hired workforce. Before even finalizing their first contract, Liberty’s 39 employees went to work, putting in a full day at the office and then headed to the Venango County Area Vocational-Technical School to train in electronics and soldering. For weeks, Jacoby remembers working until 10 p.m. each day to finish the required 200 hours of training.[vi] They completed their training in December 1985, hoping to put their skills to use in the new year. The company’s directors had not taken a pay check for months. The new production team waited as bids were considered and negotiated. Liberty was poised on a knife’s edge. Then, the work arrived. Liberty’s team put their training into action, significantly working with the United States military on the Navy’s ADCAP Torpedo and sonar systems, as well as communications assemblies on the Army’s Chinook helicopter.

The company focused on creating an innovative work environment as well, using a four-day work week schedule, profit-sharing incentives and the privately funded LEEF (Liberty Employee Emergency Fund) program to help workers during personal emergencies. The Employee Stock Ownership Plan was implemented during the company’s earliest days, and today Liberty is 34 percent employee-owned. Liberty’s investment in its employees and vice versa is a direct reflection of its founders’ Christian faith and their hope to focus on people, not just products. They desired “a highly motivated employee population with the highest standards of integrity, professionalism, and competence.”[vii] From its very first year of business, Liberty delivered just that and set a standard of quality for its more than three decades of service.

  Read Part 1: Innovation  –   Read Part 3: Integrity – Read Part 4: Moving Forward – Read Part 5: Full Circle


Liberty Electronics Inc Modern Building scaled | Our Start Part 2: Investment, Liberty Electronics®Notes:

[i] Judith Etzel, “Native Son Finds Challenge Here,” The Derrick (Oil City, Pa.), 30 September 1985.
[ii] Venango County Planning Commission, “Venango County Three Year Development Plan,” 45.
[iii] Linda Shouey (Human Relations Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[iv] Mark Jacoby (Marketing Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[v] Ibid. See also: “600 Line Up for a Job,” The Derrick, 8 October 1985; Peter Scierka, “Hundreds wait in line for shot at high-tech job,” The News-Herald (Franklin, Pa.), 7 October 1985.
[vi] Jacoby, interview with author.
[vii] Advertisement, Liberty Electronics archives.

Our Start Part 1: Innovation

by Liberty Electronics

The morning of February 17, 1986, dawned cool and rainy in Franklin, Pennsylvania. Despite the chill in the air and the fog hovering over French Creek, there was an undercurrent of excitement. After months of intense pressure, tight deadlines, and hundreds of man-hours of work, Liberty Electronics, the town’s newest business, was set to open in a gala event. Liberty offered Franklin and the nation a new solution to an old problem: manufacturing wiring components for military and commercial aerospace industries at the highest level of innovation and workmanship. An entire community came together to put this forward-thinking company on its feet. And now it was time to celebrate .

The journey began less than a year previously with Larry Snow, a veteran of the aerospace industry. A Northwest Pennsylvania native, Snow graduated from Oil City High School in 1961, then served in the U.S. Navy before taking a job with McDonnell Douglas. Working his way from foreman to engineer, by 1985, Snow was a supervisor with Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, California. [i] His 20 years of experience taught him that many aerospace and defense contractors needed help in creating cable assemblies and wiring harnesses. At first, the idea for a specialized business was only on paper, the subject of a senior research project at LaVerne University.[ii] But, when Snow visited his family back in Oil City in the spring of 1985, he saw opportunity in the midst of economic stagnation: old manufacturing sites stood empty, an unemployed population yearned for decent jobs, and community leaders were committed to bringing in new industry. It seemed a perfect chance to launch his pioneering idea. Snow went to fellow Hughes employee, Brian Barnett, with his plan, and the offer to join him when he made his pitch to local investors in one month’s time. “I reminded Larry he was crazy,” recalls Barnett.[iii] Pulling together a sales presentation for a non-existent company in such a short time seemed “impossible.”[iv] But the whirlwind schedule of investor meetings and site tours paid off. Barnett signed on as Liberty’s Vice President of Manufacturing, and a corporation was formed.

After two months of negotiations, the former Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company site in Franklin became Liberty’s home. Touted as an industrial incubator for burgeoning area businesses, the reality was far bleaker. Barnett remembers “blown out glass windows… water pipes…dripping inside…oil-soaked wood block floors…bats and birds flying around.”[v] Turning such a disaster into the high-tech cleanroom environment that was envisioned was going to take cash. Lots of it. Local businessmen and government agencies quickly rallied to the task. Liberty secured funding for start-up costs and the building site from a variety of city, county, and state redevelopment authorities.[vi] Further financing was possible through private security sales, turning locals into company shareholders. Barnett argues that, “All the CEOs in this town rose up to save Franklin.”[vii] The fundraising campaign took time and determination. With 12 minutes to spare before the midnight deadline on December 31, 1985, Snow submitted the final funding to the bank.[viii] Work could finally begin.

Liberty’s mission to be “the finest, most technically competent wire manufacturing organization ever assembled” was demonstrated in its gala opening two months later.[ix] Over one hundred individuals and businesses were invited, as well as Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh and President Ronald Reagan.[x] George Washington’s birthday was deliberately chosen as the date of the celebration, a reminder of Liberty’s patriotic character and Franklin’s colonial heritage. Area performer Linda Leisher opened the event singing “God Bless America,” and closed with the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”[xi] But while much of the festivities celebrated the area’s history, Liberty was looking to the future, not the past. Tours of the facility showed how an abandoned site could be transformed to a technical masterpiece, qualified to meet the high expectations of military and aerospace manufacturing. The venture was emblematic of a national tipping point, as the U.S. moved from making steel and iron to computers and telecommunications. Liberty wanted to take Northwest Pennsylvania into the future, and in the months and years to come, it would do just that.

  Read Part 2: Investment  Read Part 3: Integrity – Read Part 4: Moving Forward – Read Part 5: Full Circle

Liberty Electronics Inc Modern Building scaled | Our Start Part 1: Innovation, Liberty Electronics®Notes:

[i] Larry Snow, “Letter from the President,” Liberty Electronics prospectus, c. 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.
[ii] Judith Etzel, “Native Son Finds Challenge Here,” The Derrick (Oil City, Pa.), 30 September 1985.
[iii] Brian Barnett, “Liberty Electronics—The Early Years,” unpublished memo, 21 May 2018.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] See the following: “Electronics firm seeks start-up funds,” The News-Herald (Franklin, Pa.), 5 September 1985; “Factory Loan Pushed,” The Derrick, 7 September 1985; “Franklin Board Approves Incubator Funding Pact,” The Derrick, 10 September 1985.
[vii] Brian Barnett (Programs Director, retired, Liberty Electronics), interview with author , 21 May 2018.
[viii] “Liberty Electronics financing completed,” The News-Herald, 7 January 1986.
[ix] Larry Snow, “Letter from the President.”
[x] Gala invitations list, c. 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.
[xi] Gala program, 17 February 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.