Nov 4, 2009 12:00 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart
The weather smiled on George Feldstein with a luminous fall day that washed the Crestron complex in New Jersey sunlight. It played off the just-turning leaves and slanted through the skylights; it poured into the enormous party tent, mingling with fall breezes and live jazz—as if made to order. For a company that specializes in controlling lighting and environment, it was an over-the-top backdrop, almost too perfect to be real. Some 500 people had assembled to enjoy the opening of the new Crestron Experience Center—a multiroom AV demonstration center and the latest flourish in Feldstein's life as an inventor/entrepreneur. The afternoon had American Dream written all over it—with local politicians on hand and stories of immigrant families making good in the land of the free.
Crestron Opens Design and Technology Experience Center
It was a celebration of a life's work and the vitality of an all-American company; one that does everything from R&D to manufacturing to tech support on the native soil of Bergen County. Feldstein made a fine and gracious host in the role of icon. But earlier in the day, we saw George Feldstein, engineer, in his natural element. Well, he was in a suit, which was wrong. But that formality didn't hold him back as he led a nonlinear and extemporaneous tour of his R&D facility, a sprawling mix of smart business and mad science. In the cavernous lab, his 20ft. scull is virtually inconspicuous alongside the full-blown UL testing cage, which is dwarfed by the two-story RF compliance simulator. There's the homemade anechoic chamber, the steaming prototype of a whole-house humidifying pump, and the soot-stained wall where they overload circuits until they blow up. Because they need to? Maybe. Because they can? Definitely.
At every stop, Feldstein interrupts his fellow engineers mid-drawing, mid-test, scooping prototypes up off people's desks, describing future products that will be finished when they're finished. "Engineering doesn't happen to a schedule," he says happily. Then we're onto the plastic fabrication department, the manufacturing lines, and the engraving stations.
The highly personal quality of the company seems all the more important in this economy. Certainly, Crestron has policies that work—carry no debt, put engineering first, spend on training. It hired 147 engineers this year, an enviable move to be able to make. And it's had some luck. But very good companies can still run aground. So the successes are only part of the reward. On this particular sunny day, the passion of the mission looks like it's worth pursuing, whether the sun shines or not.