Rockwell looks to the future with Tibbetts purchase

By Stephanie Grinnell | Mar 04, 2014
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell Annette Merrill, foreground, cements pieces of a microphone together at Sierra Peaks' Tibbetts Division. In the background, Deana Parlin also uses a magnifier to see the small parts she is working on.

Camden — Sometimes a phone call can change everything.

In John Rockwell's case, a phone call led him to Maine, where he recently agreed to purchase IntriCon Tibbetts. An employee of the company reached out to Rockwell, president of Sierra Peaks, a manufacturer with facilities in New Mexico and Virgina.

"We've known of Tibbetts for a long time," Rockwell said Feb. 28 in his Camden office."[Acquiring] it wasn't in my annual plan at all."

He said the New Mexico facility has some customers in common with Tibbetts and when he was notified the company was looking for a buyer, he sent two employees to Camden to make an initial assessment. Rockwell then came to see for himself Jan. 2, closing the deal Jan. 27.

Many of the employees stayed on to work for Rockwell and those long-time employees have seen fellow employees and owners come and go. IntriCon Corp. has owned the business since 2007; when it was purchased that year, there were 80 employees. Since then, several rounds of layoffs have reduced the workforce manufacturing tiny microphones and speakers as well as communication coils.

"My job is to rebuild that," Rockwell said, gesturing at one of several rooms full of high-powered microscopes that sit idle and machines gathering dust.

IntriCon in June 2013 announced phased-in layoffs at the Colcord Avenue facility. The company continued to operate with fewer employees, though the exact count is unclear.

"I can't tell you if it will be a profitable business," Rockwell said. "But I wouldn't have bought a business if I didn't think I could grow it."

He said the company builds for customer orders rather than keeping stock on a shelf. One of the customers is the military and others include fast-food restaurants, hearing aid manufacturers and professional audio companies, he said.

Sierra Peaks President John Rockwell explains how the microphones manufactured at the Camden facility are tested inside a room covered in sound-absorbing material.
A variety of microphone components are manufactured at Sierra Peaks' Tibbetts Division in Camden.
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