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Former energy exec Friedland lands in aerospace sector

BY Matt Pilon

3/5/2018
Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Leadman Steve Bernier rolling titanium bands at Columbia Manufacturing, where former Proton OnSite CEO Robert Friedland was recently hired as chief operating officer.
Robert Friedland, who departed Wallingford-based Proton OnSite in September following the energy technology manufacturer's merger with a Norwegian company, has landed an aerospace management gig in Tolland County.

Friedland began his new job in January as chief operating officer of Columbia Manufacturing. It's a newly created position at the company, which has just over 100 workers.

Named after its small hometown of Columbia (population of 5,500), the company is one of the town's largest employers. It does speciality CNC machining, fabrication, and overhaul and repair for aircraft and ground-based engines.

"It's an interesting blend of three stops in my career," Friedland, 52, of Farmington, said of his new role. "It's been a really good fit."

Before helping to found Proton OnSite in the mid-1990s, where he eventually served as CEO for nearly a decade, Friedland worked for Carrier Corp. and United Technologies Corp.

Columbia Manufacturing CEO Kathryn Conlon said Friedland is taking on a big job, with manufacturing, marketing and quality segments all reporting to him. The company, which said it does $20 million in annual revenues, has also charged Friedland with diversifying and growing its customer base.

Big clients include Pratt & Whitney and General Electric.

"We need a kind of rainmaker, a change agent," Conlon said. "[Friedland] has the ability to wear many hats, and we're a small company, so all of us have to be able to wear hats."