Harris launches new antenna company

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LEWISTON — He’s starting over.

George Harris and business partner Peter Robicheau sold RF Technologies to a New Hampshire firm in 2004 only to see it closed, and staff laid off, five years later.

Harris is starting anew with Micronetixx Communications LLC. He’s brought in Robicheau as vice president of manufacturing and design and general manager, and they’re back in the high-tech antenna business.

It opens next Monday in the same space as the former RFT at 1 Gendron Drive.

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“I’m excited and scared at the same time,” Harris said. “I’m determined, the market is absolutely there.”

He said the company will make digital TV broadcast antenna and mobile video broadcast antenna capable of streaming TV to cell phones. Antenna can stand on office rooftops or existing cell towers.

Before he’d even confirmed the office space, Harris said he had more than $150,000 worth of orders in hand and anticipates more than $1 million in sales in 2010.

“We’re not really a startup because we know everybody,” he said. “Most of the customers are outside of Maine so we’re bringing outside money in.”

When Ferrite Co. bought RFT, which specialized in antennas and other microwave technology, Harris said the deal included a clause that the company stay local for at least four years. He remained with Ferrite until 2008. In 2009 it pulled out of the area and laid off 19 people, he said.

Harris spent the last six months reaching out to old customers and contacts. He’s seeking investors, so far putting his own money into the launch.

Bill Ammons, who also worked at RFT and serves as vice president of marketing and sales with the new company, said Micronetixx Communications is one of a half-dozen companies in the United States going after the same specialized market.

“We have some technologies that some of the other manufacturers don’t have,” Ammons said.

Customers will include television stations that have the technology and space to send traditional programming to TV sets in the home as well as sending a handful of low-resolution digital signals out to mobile TVs. Stations might design subchannels for just news or just entertainment, Ammons said.

Harris said he’ll hire two to three technicians by the end of the month, people who had been laid off. Initially, he’ll outsource much of the component work and slowly bring more of it in-house, taking on more staff.

“I love this field,” Harris said. “At 4 years old I watched my dad talk to my grandfather on HAM radio. I was fascinated. What really amazed me was you could talk through the air.

“I needed to understand it,” he added. “I never stopped being fascinated by it.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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