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A trip to Norfolk, Va., is paying off for Turbodyne Dresser-Rand in Wellsville.

The manufacturing plant sent 14 employees to see the company's products in place in July.

They came back impressed with the ultimate application of the equipment -- and with the end user.

The 14 attended the commissioning of the aircraft carrier Harry S Truman, which uses components manufactured and assembled in the Wellsville shops in a variety of engine room pumping operations.

"To see the magnitude of the ship, you know the work has to be right, the quality has to be second to none," said George Porter, president of Machinists Union Local 1580 at Dresser Rand.

He and union vice president John Hyland were the only two shop employees in the delegation to the commissioning.

"We hope to get back into the Navy business," said Porter.

During World War II, the Wellsville shops were dedicated to marine turbine production for the war effort, he said.

"Some of the old-timers -- older than I am -- talk about those days and the Navy flags we displayed," Porter said.

Getting a leg up toward more Navy business was one of two reasons President Dennis Weimer sent the group -- and went with it -- he said.

The Navy has several ships in various planning stages, "And we can do some of that work here," he said.

The joint venture between Dresser Industries and Ingersoll Rand has purchased some proprietary technology data from General Electric in "Navy steam turbine propulsion," said Weimer. "Since January of 1996, we have been providing all the aftermarket services and support for former GE units in Navy shipboard service," he said.

He said he believes the company is poised to provide more than aftermarket service to the Navy now, and the trip to Norfolk cemented that potential.

Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Co., where the Truman was built, has, or expects to have, other Navy business, he said.

And it was the next day after the commissioning that, "the president of Newport News was on the phone, asking if we really had brought the local (union) president and VP down," said Weimer.

His customer noticed -- and that was one of his goals.

The Navy has seen its supplier base shrink from several to perhaps three or four ship-building companies in recent years, he said.

"They're very concerned about their supply base for the future defense of the nation," he said.

"We wanted to demonstrate to to the U.S. Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding that Dresser Rand is clearly interested in and aware of current and future" Navy business, he said.

The second reason to go to Norfolk, said Weimer, was to bring home to the plant the impact its products have on this particular customer.

"We pride ourselves on building equipment engineered to our customers' specs. U.S. government specs are the most stringent," he said.

The reason for the Navy's rigor, he said, became obvious to those who went with him to Norfolk.

"There are maybe 200 people on that ship, the senior managers, with gray hair. The other 5,800 are 18 to 23 years old. They are the youth of our nation on that vessel. I leave there feeling I need to make sure that the equipment is the most reliable.

"Those kids are defending our nation," said Weimer.

And that word has gotten back to Wellsville, he said.

"Now when I walk the shops, the men are asking, 'How's the Navy contract coming?' " he said.

"The real purpose of the trip was to demonstrate to our employees how important our contribution is," said Weimer.

Hyland, on vacation in Williamsburg the week before the commissioning, and knowing he was to attend, stopped at the shipyard with his family.

"Because I didn't have Navy identification, they wouldn't let us on board, but they did let us in the gate and we walked the whole pier" the length of the Truman, he said.

Porter said the trip generated "a unique . . .feeling, that a piece of that ship came out of this shop."

As the ship was commissioned, she was turned over to he captain and crew.

"Part of the ceremony involves those sailors manning their stations.

"First they light the lamps, then the radios come on, then the radar arrays begin to turn.

"That's what gets the hairs on my neck standing up," said Weimer.

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