From parts for Patriot missiles to 30,000-pound pieces used for hydroelectric dams, Meridian Industrial Group sets itself apart from the competition by specializing in large part CNC precision machining.

“Not a lot of companies across the country are doing the size of the work we are,” Meridian president Steven E. Grande says. “We have a nice niche. That’s part of the reason we are experiencing the prosperity we are experiencing.”

Adds Grande, “We get work all across the country. Companies are searching for someone willing and able to handle large parts.”

Grande purchased the business, then known as Central Mass. Machine, in 2009. But the company’s history in Holyoke dates back to 1881 when it started as a foundry, blacksmith and machining business under the name J&W Jolly Inc. The original foundry turned out 7 tons of cast iron a day and employed 200.

For Grande, who spent 20 years as a Springfield police officer, the company intrigued him. He wanted to run a business again, having previously operated a small firm that sold building materials to contractors, a venture he started when he was laid off by the Police Department.

And, although he lacked a manufacturing background, Grande liked that the company was known for its ability to take on large projects. While there is a manufacturing presence in Western Massachusetts, a lot of it involves smaller components. That’s where Meridian differs, Grande notes.



Meridian has evolved over the years, says Grande, who runs it with his son, Benjamin P. Grande. Steve Grande’s wife, Lisa, handles human resources.

“We bought kind of an old, kind of tired (company with) older equipment,” Grande says, explaining they then “reinvented the business.”

That meant an investment of up to $4 million in new equipment and technology and moving from a traditional manufacturing facility to one focused on advanced manufacturing.

They also changed the name to Meridian in January 2014. Grande said the Central Mass. name didn’t fit, as the company was in Western Massachusetts, and they wanted a name that was more “sleek” and had more of “an aerospace feel.”

The Legislative Manufacturing Caucus named Merdian Industrial Group "Manufacturer of the Year," one of 78 statewide recipients.

Today, the company serves customers in New England and throughout the U.S. And, while its large part, precision CNC machining remains its area of expertise, it also has a variety of smaller CNC lathes and mills for machining small parts, mostly for the commercial, aerospace and defense industries.

“It’s a source of pride to be involved in some of the military stuff that we are,” Grande says.

(CNC stands for computer numerical control, and CNC machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery.)

Changes made at Meridian included transitioning from big commercial projects to more sophisticated jobs, Grande explains. For example, Meridian is now involved in the space program, as it machines parts for rockets used to deliver satellites. It also makes sonar and components for Navy submarines.

The work is done out of Meridian’s South East Street facility, which features 60,000 square feet of machining space. Grande says they are in the beginning stages of discussions about a possible expansion. They currently employ 23 people.

The success of the firm can be seen in its growth over the past four years. A private company, it does not release sales figures, according to Grande, but last year experienced a 20% increase due to new military contracts, a rise in defense spending and the continued expansion of the space program. This year, Grande says, the company is on track for growth between 5% and 7%.

“We have to grow incrementally at the right pace,” Grande says. “I always have this idea that prosperity can end at any time.”

He credits his son, who started working at the business approximately a year after he bought it, with guiding its success, also noting the importance of longtime employees who have helped achieve goals.

In addition to celebrating its 10-year anniversary last year, Meridian was recognized at the Statehouse as Manufacturer of the Year by the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus. It was among 78 businesses to receive the honor, and state Rep. Aaron M. Vega, D-Holyoke, presented the award to the Grandes at the ceremony.

“What they do is just really cool,” Vega said. “I think it continues the manufacturing history we have here in Holyoke.”

Other recipients include Chemiplasta Inc. of Florence which will receive at $31,680. The grant will be used to train 28 workers.

Grande says he finds his employees through staffing agencies and training programs in the area such as Tech Foundry, which is a Western Massachusetts IT training program. “We’ve found terrific employees through Tech Foundry,” Grande said.

Most employees Meridian hires have some experience in the field, but not all, Grande says, noting they brought on some former East Longmeadow High School athletes who his son knew. The combination of their strong math and science skills, competitiveness and ability to work as team players proved to be assets, according to Grande, who also is from East Longmeadow. Several of these employees were underemployed or working in jobs with no chance for advancement before coming to Meridian, he notes.

Perks to attract and retain employees include benefits such as a 401(k) with a company match and a quarterly bonus program for meeting goals. He says the company also pays for its machinists to attend courses such as Mastercam (a computer-aided software program for manufacturing employees) and CAD-CAM (computer-aided design-computer-aided manufacturing), and cross-trains so workers can fill in for each other during absences.

“We always try to use the resources we have in-house,” Grande says. “It gives us more flexibility, especially when it’s difficult to find employees.

“We’re constantly trying to keep up with technology, constantly innovating and constantly dealing with market forces,” he adds. “We’re constantly upgrading equipment and looking at how we do things and improving when we can.”

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