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.
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.
[i] John Dumot (President, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[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.