A Boeing Dreamliner with Continental Airline colors. (2007)

A Boeing Dreamliner with Continental Airline colors. (2007) Credit: Getty Images, 2007

GKN Aerospace, in the news this week for winning a $500,000 state job-saving grant, is part of a venerable British engineering company -- and one of the largest manufacturers in the world -- with roots that stretch back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in 1759.

It was once the world's largest makers of screws, nuts and bolts. Now, it's geared mostly toward the aerospace and automotive industries. The company mines its own coal and ore, makes its own steel and produces finished parts.

GKN stands for Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds. Based in Redditch (near Birmingham) it has a market capitalization of $3 billion, with $305 million income on $5 billion in sales in 2010. 

It will use the $500,000 to install machinery to fulfill a parts order for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

"GKN dates back to 1759 when the Dowlais Iron Co. was set up in the village of Dowlais near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales," the company says on its website.

The Guest family became involved in the business in 1767, when it "grew to be the largest iron works in the world, operating 18 blast furnaces and employing 7,300 people."

 In 1900 it merged with Arthur Keen’s Nut and Bolt Co.; and in 1902 it bought Nettlefolds, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of screws and fasteners. At that point it became Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds.

Photo: A Boeing Dreamliner with Continental  Airlines colors.

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