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American innovators

September 2, 2012
By AMANDA MAY METZGER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - After long hours, several prototypes, traveling to trade shows and scouting out onshore manufacturing operations, a local company soon will have two products available on two national retailers' websites.

Starting Oct. 1, two of the Forest Street-based Air Jet Technologies' products will be available on the Sears and Kmart websites after the company forged a partnership earlier this year with Sears Holdings Corp., which owns both retail chains.

The first product is Air Jet's Lawn Spider universal deck cleaner and mulching kit.

Article Photos

Dave Agee, president of AirJet Technologies, left, stands with Managing Director Mike Ruggiero and Vice President and engineer Darren DeRocker at Curtin-Hebert Machines and Air Jet’s headquarters at 11 Forest St. in Gloversville. Ruggiero and DeRocker also are executives at Curtin-Hebert Machines. Ruggiero is holding a leaf blower with the Air Jet shovel attached. The undercarriage of a riding lawnmower is shown at the left. Attached to the blade is a metal bar with the spiders attached. (The Leader-Herald/ Amanda May Metzger)

The product uses long orange plastic legs attached to a metal bar that screws onto the undercarriage of a push or riding lawn mower. The orange plastic legs spin with the blade and continuously clear clumps of grass from below the mower deck. The product mulches grass as it cuts.

The Lawn Spider retails for $19.99. It is already available on the company's website, www.airjettechnologies.com, and company President Dave Agee said the business is already filling a log-book full of orders.

It fits most riding and push lawnmowers.

The second product, the AirJet Shovel, is a patented attachment for leaf blowers. The attachment looks like a shovel, but no shoveling is required as air from the leaf blower is pushed through the tube and out an opening in the shovel. The attachment can be used to blast through ice as well.

Agee said the air also dries the surface eliminating the need for chemical de-icing agents.

The shovel attachment will retail for $29.99, and it will be available on the company's website as well starting in October.

"Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all patented items ever get to market," Agee said, so getting two products to market with major retailers is an accomplishment.

Agee traveled to the International Hardware Show in Las Vegas last spring. As other vendors were packing up to leave, Agee decided to stay a little longer. That's when buyers from Sears came to his booth.

Agee, whose background is in sales, also owns AG Sales Solutions, a company by which Agee, for the last decade, has worked with patent attorneys, companies and inventors to develop and market products.

"I don't invent anything. I'm not an engineer, I'm just a salesman," he said.

About three years ago Curtin-Hebert, a machine manufacturer that's been in business in the city for 130 years, was looking to diversify.

AirJet was born when Agee formed a partnership with Curtin-Hebert's three owners.

About a year ago, the company unveiled its air-jet turbine-powered blow technology with a snow plow. The company is currently working on other prototypes of that product, which can be used to clear slippery leaves from the railroad tracks in the fall and to clear sand.

Agee said the company was contacted about "slippery rail" condition, which costs the rail industry billions each year as braking systems have to be repaired.

"When leaves fall on top of the tracks, and they get cought in the braking and wheel system, it does a huge amount of damage," Agee said.

He said the company was contacted by the Israeli government to develop a machine using the AirJet technology to clear sand from airfields.

It was a patent attorney who recommended inventor Brian Nagamatsu to Agee, who came to Agee with the patented shovel idea.

"What struck me [were] his credentials," Agee said of Nagamatsu. "He came out of Ford Motor Co. and later General Electric. He has many patents. and when he was with Ford, he was on the team that developed the catalytic converter."

Nagamatsu lived in Niskayuna but recently retired to the Southwest.

For three years Agee sought out companies to make the shovel for AirJet, but with no luck.

"But, we believed in this product so much, I came here to Curtin Hebert and Curtin Hebert was looking to expand their opportunities, and we decided we were going to manufacture this product," he said.

He said the company also saw opportunity for commercial snow removal, so it developed the Air Jet plow.

"It's going to be awesome to see that on their websites," said Darren DeRocker, vice president and engineer of AirJet and Curtin-Hebert Machines.

While simultaneously working on the two products for Sears Holdings, Agee said the company has several other products in the works now.

"It's very exciting for us. It's a new product made in America. Hopefully it will create jobs," said Michael Ruggiero, Curtin-Hebert Machines president and AirJet managing director.

AirJet currently employs seven people, but Agee said he hopes to add more as demand increases for the products. In the meantime the company is also working with Lexington to provide jobs for Lexington members who help assemble the Lawn Spiders.

The shovel is manufactured in Massachusetts.

"We sourced it out and found one the thing we really wanted to do was keep it made in America. Unfortunately this requires a very large molding company. We found a very good fit at a company called First Plastics [out of Leominster, Mass.]," Agee said. "We are just so thrilled."

To manufacture the two products off shore would have cut the cost significantly, but Agee said that wasn't an option.

The investment of time and money that went into the products was huge, he said.

For some trade shows, the cost was $20,000 when everything was totaled.

"That's a huge investment," he said. "We're all investing our money into this. And it isn't government driven. More importantly, we're putting our time into this."

For the shovel alone it took hundreds of thosuands of dollars for the mold, he said.

"To watch it from grow from something to nothing, that doesn't happen overnight," Agee said.

Tom Aiello, division vice president at Sears, said the products have potential to make it into the brick-and-mortar stores as well.

"That would be the logical path based on the success of online sales. It really depends on the product category and what benchmarks there are for those kind of different accessories. They may get to the point where those accessories generate so much popularity they get incorporated with actual Craftsmen [products] we sell," he said.

 
 

 

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