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Air Industries diversifying with LI defense company purchases

Former Grumman Corp. executive Peter D. Rettaliata is building a diversified aerospace company in Bay Shore by purchasing smaller defense contractors on Long Island.

Many of the companies Rettaliata's Air Industries Group has bought are run by other ex-employees of Grumman, who now want to retire and have no successors.

Air Industries has made four major acquisitions since 2007 and expects to make three more in the next two years.

These purchases could add between 25 and 60 jobs to Air Industries' payroll of 239, he said. Records show that employees of the company earn, on average, $65,846 per year excluding benefits.

Earlier this week, the company sought $1.1 million in tax breaks from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency on four rented buildings over 10 years. Most of the savings would come from a property tax reduction and would offset a spike in electric prices in a low-cost power program from New York State.

The IDA initially offered $667,747 in tax breaks but its executive director Anthony Manetta said negotiations would continue. Air Industries said it was being courted by Florida and the Carolinas to move.

The publicly traded holding company manufactures equipment such as landing gear, engine mounts and flight controls for military and commercial airplanes. Its stock market value is about $50 million.

The company provides parts for the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from Sikorsky, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin, 777 airliner from Boeing and other craft.

Grumman -- now part of Northrop Grumman -- was a dominant local employer for years. As it shrank after the Cold War's end, many employees left to form small, private defense firms. "Long Island's aerospace industry, though weakened, is still a strong, important player," Rettaliata said this week.

"The companies that we've brought are on Long Island," said Rettaliata, who grew up in Babylon Town and worked at Grumman for 22 years. "They were started by entrepreneurs who now want to retire and often have to close their businesses because they don't have anyone to pass the business to."

He told the IDA that Decimal Industries of Copiague, Miller Stuart Inc. of Hauppauge and Nassau Tool Works Inc. of West Babylon would have likely closed if Air Industries hadn't purchased them. Together, the trio employs about 70 people.

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