- September 13, 2021
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James Lines, president and CEO of Graham Corp. in Batavia, had been considering retirement the past two years.
“I’m 60 and was planning to exit the company,” he said. “My duty in my role is to find a competent successor.”
He found that successor this year, after the two-year, $70 million acquisition of Barber-Nichols, a Colorado-based company that manufactures equipment in the aerospace and defense industries.
“As we began to nurture an acquisition with Barber-Nichols, I began to work very closely with the president of that company,” Lines said.
That man was Daniel Thoren, who’s been the CEO of Barber-Nichols since 1997. Lines said during that time, he saw how Thoren managed the company through the acquisition and how he “visualized long-term growth” at Graham. Lines told the board of directors that Thoren would be a good successor, and they agreed.
“The next journey for Graham requires another skill set and different capabilities,” Lines said.
Graham (NYSE: GHM), a global company that designs and manufactures equipment for the energy industry, is moving toward growth in acquisition investments and “different markets than Graham traditionally had been in,” Lines said.
While the plan is to continue to grow the energy portion of the company, Lines also said it plans to heavily invest in the space and defense side too.
“He’s best suited to drive that growth,” Lines said. “I would anticipate we will continue to grow through acquisition and that the next one ideally would be one to two years out. It all comes down to the fit and the strategy.”
The Batavia location will remain here, according to Lines, and the acquisition won’t affect the 320 employees.
Lines joined Graham in 1984 as an entry-level engineer. He seized opportunities the company provided to work in sales and management before becoming CEO in 2006.
It was soon after, Graham decided to explore and grow its defense business. Teams within the company along with consultants and customers all contributed to the company “figuring out how to run our business better within the cyclical nature of the energy market,” Lines said.
“We weren’t a victim of the cyclical nature of energy,” he said.
By diversifying, the company generated “a healthy cash reserve,” which it was able to use in the acquisition of Barber-Nichols, Lines said.
“I commend my team for what they helped me figure out,” he said.
His team commended him, too. In a Tuesday news release announcing Lines’ retirement, James Malvaso, chairman of the board, thanked Lines for his dedication to the company.
“Under his leadership, Graham has improved its cash generation, expanded into more geographic and end markets, with the Navy being particularly noteworthy, and created more flexible and efficient production processes while building a strong culture of quality,” Malvaso said in the release. “We appreciate his support through the transition and wish him the very best in his retirement.”
Lines said it’s been an honor working with the employees at Graham, adding that he’s thankful for a 37-year career. The Batavia factory has a plaque that lists the employees that have served for 25 years. His name is one of them.
“For me, being a part of that team with those remarkable individuals who gave their best to Graham and to our customers every day, was gratifying, stimulating and gave me passion,” Lines said. “I was blessed to work alongside them for37 years. It raised the bar for me.”
Lines doesn’t have “particular plans” for retirement other than spending quality time with his family, who live in Lancaster.