PORTSMOUTH — Before H. Henry and Tiina Liiv retired last year from International Manufacturing Services (IMS), which they founded nearly four decades ago, they talked about always wanting a flagpole installed at the high-tech company located on Schoolhouse Lane.
They got their wish Friday, when employees celebrating a company picnic surprised them with not only a flagpole but a tribute to their homeland of Estonia.
“We’ve been threatening to do this forever,” said John Silvia Jr., president and chairman of IMS, which manufactures chip resistors and related ceramic-based materials for passive components. “They wanted a flagpole very badly and we had actually put in the receiver but never got around to finishing it. So now we finished it and we’re dedicating it to them.
“Hank and Tiina are nationalized citizens of Estonia, so we have the American flag and the Estonia flag both displayed today. We also have a dedication stone that we are revealing. We have a permanent remembrance of our founders.”
The Liivs, who were visibly moved by the tribute, were presented with both flags while a large American flag went up in their place.
“Hank and Tiina, thank you for dreaming the dream that has become IMS,” Mr. Silvia said.
IMS products are used, Mr. Silvia said, “in absolutely anything that takes electronic components,” from cell phones to satellite systems.
“We have them in the eye of the Martian probe, we have them in the Space Shuttle. My mom had two in her pacemaker,” said Mr. Silvia, noting that Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are among IMS’ customers. “It’s a very common component — it’s like a screw to a mechanic. The smallest ones you can shake out of a pepper shaker, and the larger ones you can see visually. It’s all done with lasers and microscopes. We sell around the world.”
IMS was started in April 1974 with just a handful of employees in a storefront in the Job Lot shopping center in Middletown. The company moved to a red brick building of 3,200 square feet at its current location, behind NewportFed off East Main Road, in 1977.
“We’ve expanded a couples of times,” said Mr. Silvia, noting the facility doubled in size in 1990 and added another 5,600 square feet in 2003.
IMS currently employs 45 people, one of whom is Paul Kelly, a micro-electronics component processor who’s been there nearly four years.
‘Heart and soul’ of Portsmouth
“I had no experience at all in high-tech manufacturing when I first started, and they taught me,” said Mr. Kelly. “Now I run machinery and everything comes out nice. Yeah, it’s a great job and I love it.”
Mr. Kelly pointed out how IMS fits Portsmouth’s character so well — a high-tech firm embedded in a town still clinging to its farming roots. After spending a day making electronic components, he said, “if the wind blows right, I come outside and I can smell the cows.”
“This company is the heart and soul of Portsmouth. Look where it is — right in the middle of town,” said Mr. Kelly. “There are only 40 or 50 or us, but we all have families. This is John Silvia’s ministry and he helps all of us. We in turn help everybody else and the community benefits.”