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Flying high: Audio International finds niche with aircraft entertainment systems.

WHEN RICK MARSH WAS an aerospace technician, he used to hear complaints about the poor quality of aircraft entertainment systems.

Then Marsh met Wayne Richie, who was a development engineer in electronics for the U.S. Air Force.

The two came to know each other through various "Crank It Up" contests for car stereos. They won 14 competitions between them.

Eventually, they decided to start their own company to manufacture audio, video and cabin electronic equipment for corporate airplanes and helicopters.

Now, Marsh and Richie are judges in the "Crank It Up" contests.

Their North Little Rock-based Audio International Inc., which they started with $750 each in 1986, has sales of more than $2 million. Projections for 1993 are for more than $2.5 million.

The company has only three competitors nationwide. None are in Arkansas.

The Audio International facility is expanding and soon will double in size. The company is working with the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce on the construction of an industrial park off of Faulkner Lake Road.

Audio International is one of three companies set to go in the park. Its facility will occupy 15,000 SF.

The company recently hired six people to bring its total employee count to 29. By this time next year, there should be 35 employees, the two project.

Richie says he and Marsh always said if they started their own company, they would treat their employees differently than some past employers had treated them.

But, Richie says of his employees, "They come in early. They stay late. You have to run them off."

In fact, says Richie, everyone has been working 12-hour days six days a week for the last two months because of increased business.

Audio International is expanding into diverse areas. Video and audio components only comprise 50 percent of the business.

Now, the company manufactures cabin control systems and power converters. It manufactures components for other companies, too.

Israel Aircraft is one of its biggest customers. The president of Chile is also a customer.

Domestic customers still provide at least 65 percent of the business, but Richie says the European market is growing rapidly.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Arkansas Business of the Year Awards 1992; Audio International Inc.'s audio, video and cabin electronic equipment for corporate airplanes and helicopters
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:358
Previous Article:An Arkansas gold mine.
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