Kansas Aviation of Independence has come a long way since its founding in 1992, when two businessmen, equipped with a small business loan and only four employees, started working from a small hangar.
Having passed its 25th anniversary, the company now occupies a 30,000-square-foot building and has 80 employees. Kansas Aviation is known for its overhaul and repair of oil-, air- and fuel-related engine accessories for general aviation planes such as those used for crop dusting, private airplanes and business jets. The company does business in more than 50 countries, and 34 percent of its business is currently made up of exports, with Canada its largest customer.
General manager Colby Matthews says that international approach presents some challenges with language and business-law barriers, but the company has thrived in building connections across the globe.
“We get visitors from all over the world,” says Matthews. “Once they see our facility and visit with our people, that opens a lot of doors for us.”
Kansas Aviation was named the 2014 Kansas Exporter of the Year and was then acquired in 2015 by VSE Corporation, a Virginia- based supply-chain management company with more than 50 years in business, an extensive aerospace portfolio and international holdings.
Matthews says the arrangement allows Kansas Aviation to focus on its goals and prepare for expansion.
“Our short-term goals are to continue to expand our capabilities,” Matthews says. “We are going to add the capability to service newer engines in addition to the older legacy ones. In the long term, we have pretty well maxed out our current facilities and are close to expanding our floor space. We are also looking into breaking into the commercial aviation market. With the reputation we have now, we figure we are ready for the next leap.”
Though it has grown into an international exporter, Kansas Aviation says it is committed to honoring its roots and the local employees who made the growth possible.
Each year on an employee’s work anniversary, a supervisor will notice the employee and the character trait—such as creativity or flexibility—he or she has demonstrated the most during that year. In addition to the work achievement, the supervisor will also recognize the employee’s family.
“We try to push a strong family culture here,” says Colby Matthews, general manager of the company, who adds that he believes it is important for a company to honor “people doing things right and recognizing them for that.”