DOWNEY - After months of renovation, precision cleaning contractor Astro Pak, located at 12201 Pangborn Ave., officially unveiled its upgraded cleaning facility in Downey last Wednesday. Before an eager crowd of city officials and longtime employees, company president Ken Verheyen jovially snapped a crystal blue ribbon extending across the entrance of the renovated facilities, drawing ecstatic cheers and fanfare.
In a warehouse filled with cardboard boxes, wooden slates, and high-powered hoses, Verheyen addressed the audience just before an open house tour that allowed guests, including the Downey City Council, to explore the company's new multi-million dollar cleaning laboratory.
"When we endeavored to do this project, people thought I was way in over my head," he said. "The largest expansion we've taken on has been in the worst economic times, but I had total confidence in making the investment because of our team."
During the ceremony, Verheyen praised the equipment suppliers, customers, and employees who have bolstered the small company through the years.
"Our supply base has served us for 53 years," said Verheyen, who took over the company in the early 1990s. "Our customers are the absolute top world technology leaders. You trusted us with your programs. It's like iron sharpening iron - you drive us to be better."
Using high-tech equipment and chemical products, Astro Pak specializes in certified purity cleaning, disinfection, electropolishing, and passivation, which eliminates iron from the surface of a spacecraft to enhance corrosion resistance.
Founded on March 1, 1959, Astro Pak emerged during the escalating space race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. The great rivalry for space technology created a huge opportunity for small precision cleaning contractors and Astro Pak filled the void.
From Atlas missiles and the Apollo space program to Gemini and Saturn, the employees of Astro Pak have touched nearly every space program, Verheyen said.
In the early 70s, Astro Pak, now based in Costa Mesa, was contracted by the U.S. Navy to clean the oxygen systems on several of its rescue ships.
Speaking on behalf of the city, Mayor Roger Brossmer lauded the company, which opened its Downey location in 1974 to serve the 200-acre Rockwell NASA plant that designed and produced the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
"We're very honored that you chose the city of Downey and stayed in Downey," said Brossmer. "Let's shoot for 53 more (years)."
While touring the facility, Councilman Mario Guerra also reflected on the company's contributions to the city's aerospace history.
"This is part of the Downey legacy, innovative companies like this," he said. "People always say let's bring back high tech industries, well, we already have high-tech industries."
Since 1991, every 10 years the company has seen its revenues and facilities double as more industries are in need of precision cleaning services, said Verheyen.
Today, the growing company cleans equipment for various industries, including biopharmaceutical, food and beverage, household and personal care, medical, and aerospace and defense.
"We've been growing since the day we started," said Verheyen, whose father, Carl, co-founded the company in 1959. "The message today is simple. Great companies are made of great people."
********** Published: August 02, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 16