Specialty cables from Rumney firm will help bring Olympics to the world

  • Part of the assembly facility at Stonewall Cable in Rumney. —Courtesy Stonewall Cable

  • A worker assembles a cable at Stonewall Cable in Rumney. Courtesy of Stonewall Cable

  • Finishing cables are stacked at Stonewall Cable in Rumney. Courtesy of Stonewall Cable

Monitor staff
Published: 5/1/2016 10:36:18 PM

When the world starts watching the Olympic Games in Brazil this summer, people will be cheering everywhere, but the cheering from some folks in Rumney will have a slightly different focus: They’ll be rooting for the television cables.

Stonewall Cable, a family-owned company that has carved out a niche by developing customized cables for electronic equipment in defense and civilian applications, is providing a host of equipment for broadcasters at the Olympics. That includes cables with custom lengths (“Gone are the days of ordering a 50-foot stock cable when only 26.4 feet is required,” notes a company press release), specialty “exit angles” to help tame the cable spaghetti that torments broadcast booths, even custom jackets to help cable work in varied environments.

As exciting as it might be to have your product intertwined, literally, with the Summer Olympics, it’s actually fairly routine for the firm, which is thriving despite the relatively out-of-the-way location.

“We’ve done a number of projects this big. We’ve provided equipment in support of the Super Bowl before; we work with NASA,” said Jeffrey Emery II, director of business development and engineering manager, whose parents Jeffrey and Deborah founded the firm and are president and vice president.

Stonewall Cable was founded in 1985 when the senior Jeff Emery acted in classic entrepreneur style.

“My father was a manager at a growing company, and they had a hard time of getting hold of communication cables. He saw an opportunity,” said Emery.

Their unusual location came about, as it often does for start-ups, because that’s where the founders were.

“My folks born and raised up here. My mother’s from Wentworth, my father’s from Groveton. We were in Plymouth at the time, and that’s where the company started,” said Emery. It expanded just over the border in Rumney about a decade ago when the time came to build a new facility and that was the closest location with the necessary space for the 15,000-square-foot plant, which includes a clean room and secure areas for military and high-tech contract work.

“We stayed here for a number of reasons: The people are wonderful, we’re very employee-focused. This is a great place to live and do business,” he said.

Still, he acknowledges concern about New Hampshire’s demographics, the way the state is growing older and faces a possible shortage of younger workers, particularly in the northern parts of the state.

“That is a concern – considering it is part of our ongoing growth strategy. It comes up in our management meetings,” he said. “There may come a time where we need to branch out and open up other areas.”

A big part of Stonewall’s business involves dealing with the military, which tends to have very specific needs. Emery described a typical situation.

“Say they have adopted a new encryption device, to keep communications in the field secure. There are a wide series of radios in use with the military, some are years old and some brand-new, and to make one new encryption device work with all the radios is hard,” he said. “Getting it to handshake and work with the rest of the network is where we come in. We have to get into nitty-gritty of way devices are configured, the way the software works, do what we can to translate the signals as required for the devices that they’re interfacing with.”

Data cables with names like OM4 fiber optic and Category 7 Ethernet are also a big part of the business.

Getting this product from Rumney to customers throughout the world – Stonewall cables exist “on every continent,” the company says – is no problem in this day and age, thanks to FedEx and UPS. “We have several pickups a day; it hasn’t been an issue,” Emery said.

What about the other problem that tends to face manufacturing and engineering firms in rural areas: finding enough skilled workers?

Emery said Stonewall has mostly avoided that issue because “we do so much of our training in-house.”

“It’s difficult to find people that have direct experience with what we do, so we’ve always done training,” he said. “We’re interested in people that want stable long-term employment, are open-minded and proactive about problems. We can do the training.”

Hires include people without any college degrees up through engineers, he said. Stonewall Cable’s head count slipped during the recession but is back up almost to 70 people, Emery said. He declined to discuss sales figures for the privately held company but said there are long-term growth plans.

“Fiber is growing,” he said of the glass fiber-optic cables, which carry huge amounts of information over light rather than electricity. “There’s a lot of optimism; the sky’s the limit for that.”

Whatever happens, Emery said, a key focus remains on employees. “We have people coming up on 20 years, a lot at the 15-year and 10-year mark, as well as fresh faces. We just our success by the number of stable, long-term jobs we can provide.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)




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