Salem firm excels in tough environment

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Companies are willing to invest in new equipment if it provides a significant return on investment — even in a down economy. That situation has propelled the fortunes of Synchrony, a Salem-based manufacturer of magnetic bearings. The company saw its sales double in 2009 and in January attracted another $10 million in venture capital from Radford-based fund management firm Third Security LLC.

“There are a lot of ‘green’ products out there that offer very marginal returns, but our products really hit the energy-efficiency and environmental improvements that companies need to justify an upgrade to their equipment,” says Troy Jamison, senior vice president of business development at Synchrony. He notes that 2009’s sales growth included a $16 million order from McQuay International, a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of HVAC chillers.

Magnetic bearings are a relatively new technology that eliminates the need for friction-inducing ball bearings and gears, as well as oil and grease lubricants, in rotating equipment such as motors and pumps.

Synchrony’s Fusion bearings take the basic technology even further. Named one of the 100 most technologically significant products of 2009 by R&D Magazine, the Fusion bearings are compact and contain advanced diagnostic and system monitoring capabilities designed to decrease vibration and operating noise, improve machine stability and increase energy efficiency.

As a result of these innovations, says Jamison, “our products are able to be used in applications and in ways that traditionally have been too complicated for magnetic bearings.” These applications include use in compressors, pumps, generators, fans, blowers and motors in the HVAC, renewable energy, power generation, oil and gas, and defense markets.

The infusion of venture capital from Third Security will help Synchrony expand its product range and move into international markets, says Jamison. He projects that the company, which currently has 65 employees and is hiring, will double its sales again this year.

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