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Mid-America Aviation has new owners

Engineer Glenn Stults, left, trains Perry Morrison on dismantling a B1 bomber door actuator during his first day of work Monday at Mid-America Aviation in West Fargo. Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Thomas (Tom) Kenville has sold Mid-America Aviation Inc., West Fargo, to Moog Inc., an East Aurora, N.Y. based firm. The transaction became official May 25, with Moog Inc. making the announcement public at a special press conference held Monday, Oct. 4, at the Mid-America Aviation plant, 159 8th Ave. N.W.

In attendance for the occasion were several prominent dignitaries and local officials, including North Dakota Governor John Hoeven and senior management of the Moog company.

Since 1992, Kenville has served as CEO and President of Mid-America Aviation - an awarding-winning small business, specializing in the overhaul and repair of critical aircraft components for the United States Air Force, NASA and 16 foreign countries.

Moog Inc., founded by inventor, entrepreneur, and visionary William (Bill) Moog in 1951, is a developer of high-performance systems that control military and commercial aircraft, satellites and space vehicles, launch vehicles, missiles, industrial machinery, wind energy, marine applications, and medical equipment.   

Kenville is leaving on a high note, saying his association with Mid-America Aviation has been an extremely rewarding one and 'a feel good story' from its inception.

An accomplished pilot in his own right, Kenville served 32 years in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard, retiring as a Colonel in 1995 after accumulating 5,000 military flight hours. During this time, he was the driving force in securing federal funding for six new armories in North Dakota; and because of these efforts was recognized with the Legion of Merit honor, the highest award bestowed by the N.D. National Guard.

From 1975 to 1985, he owned and operated GM automobile dealerships in both Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, Minn., followed by seven years providing consulting services to a variety of organizations in North Dakota, including economic development ventures for the city of Fargo. Through these involvements, Kenville was instrumental in securing the location of several large businesses in the area - including Marvin Windows and the Jet Center.

In the early 1990s, a business opportunity presented itself involving a company located in Deer Park Long Island, N.Y. The firm had been negotiating with a local business entity but the seller died before the deal was finalized, so the acquisition never occurred.

Consequently, the widow of the business owner approached Kenville six months later and asked if he would be interested.

Seeing the opportunity, Kenville quickly set the wheels in motion.

Short on capital investment, he turned to good friend Governor George "Bud" Sinner and under his tutelage an arrangement for financing was reached through the North Dakota Economic Development Future Fund program.

Mid-America Aviation was the initial applicant for the future fund investment portfolio. The end result was a $375,000 capital expenditure for the realization of the company with several local banks and regional investors also participating.

The company began its operation in Fargo, before downsizing the fourth year and relocating to 601 West Main in West Fargo, all "thanks to some flexible leasing arrangements provided by George Wyum," according to Kenville.

By 1999, Mid-America had prospered to the point Kenville was able to buy back all the stock from the N.D. future fund, quite an achievement given that the future fund had invested in nine entities in 1992 and Mid-America Aviation was the only one to survive.

At that time the company employed about 20. As the firm and work force grew, it relocated to its current facility at 159 8th Ave. NW, in doing so, tripling its size and currently employing 50, with several additional employees coming on board in October 2010.

Kenville noted that the new owner's focus will be continuing to grow the business, with sights set on an additional 50 employees. Mid-America Chief Operating Officer Randy Herman is presently overseeing the operation for Moog.

Relinquishing control of Mid-America will not mean total retirement for Kenville who intends to keep busy with the daily operation of three of his subsidiary businesses each independent in their own product offerings - Roll-A-Ramp, Skeeter Gone, and Flockbuster, all located in West Fargo.

Away from work, Kenville also plans to remain active in a variety of other business and civic endeavors - as a longtime member of the Horace Lions; and spreading the word about his pet fundraising project that will result in the restoration of the Page House at Bonanzaville. He and his wife, Carol, who make their home in Horace, also enjoy traveling and will continue to do so, touring various points of the country with their five children and numerous grandchildren.

After all is said and done, Kenville said he is looking forward to the newfound recreational opportunities that will be presenting themselves, admitting that after an 18-year run with Mid-America, the timing just seemed right for the sale.

"If I'm good at anything, it is dealmaking," he said. "And most importantly, I was able to strike the right deal that addressed all of my main concerns. This deal had to involve three entities all being successful - me and my family, my employees and the new buyer. This is how good deals are struck and kept. And this transaction as it was finalized will be a win-win-win for all three parties."

"Moog is committed to the community, the area and growing the business," Kenville added. "This was very important to me, which in turn trickles down to the people who helped me make the business successful. We run a good company, have good employees and a good culture."

Kenville said he had been approached by others to purchase the business, but they wanted to move its location and that "was totally unacceptable and a deal breaker. Moog agreed not to relocate the business for five years," but Kenville believes they will never leave West Fargo. "Our employees will demonstrate to them a work ethic at such a high level of professionalism and commitment that they will never want to leave West Fargo. Mid-America's production per employee is exemplary."