(Story via thePoughkeepsie Journal.com) POUGHKEEPSIE, NY-A small manufacturing company in the city of Poughkeepsie just had its best year ever and is on track to have an even better one, contrary to the image of American manufacturing as dimming.

Do they make the hottest new consumer technology? Or the latest big seller at Walmart?

Far from it. Dorsey Metrology International makes measuring tools used in industry.

Their roots go back 56 years and they have been a steady employer in the city of Poughkeepsie for most of that time. They employ 43 people, and want to expand.

It's a record that led the company to win this year's Business Excellence Award for manufacturing from the Dutchess County Economic Development Corp.

Theodore Luty Jr., the president and CEO, said the recognition means a lot to the people at the plant.

"It's also a tribute to everyone who's been part of our organization over the years," he said.

The company is one of the few American makers of precision gauges and other tools used for ensuring that parts are just the right size.

While most people will never touch one of these tools, it's a good bet that most people have indirectly benefited from their use at makers of products such as aircraft engines.

"The fact that we're precision problem-solvers," Luty said, means that "people come to us to answer their important problems."

His business strategy has been to position Dorsey at the upper levels of quality in the measuring field and avoid the corner-cutting that he says his competitors have resorted to.

The Dorsey philosophy is also to constantly improve the product line. They also work with customers to re-engineer standard products to adapt them to meet new needs presented by customers.

For example, a new bore gauge, an instrument for measuring holes, was sought by Caterpillar, a maker of heavy equipment. Dorsey customized a product to those needs and now sells it as part of its line.

Its more high-tech line is optical comparators, which project a part's image on a screen where it can be precisely measured.

About 85% of sales are domestic; about 15% to a growing list of overseas customers from Asia to Turkey.

"It's an interesting company; they do some nice things," said Harold King, executive vice president of the Council of Industry, a Hudson Valley trade association. He said they were, in a sense, "a machine shop with its own product line."

Inside the Oakley Avenue plant, which has about 17,100 square feet of space, the rooms are filled with both classic machine-shop drills and lathes as well as state-of-the-art computer numerically controlled milling machines, or CNCs, that cost close to half a million dollars.

Vince Besze of Salt Point is a machinist who has worked at Dorsey since 2002. He runs a CNC, which requires a complex set of skills, ranging from reading blueprints on a computer to programming the machine to make gauge parts.

He learned mechanical skills in high school and trade school and then went to Dutchess Community College to pick up software skills in computer-aided design, or CAD, and computer-aided manufacturing, CAM.

"Now, it's mostly a game of keeping up with software," Besze said.

One of the key challenges for Dorsey and others who rely on skills such as these is finding young people to take up the trade and replace what looks like a coming flood of openings because of retirements.

The average age of the machinists here is in the 60s. Luty said he's willing to match up some trainees with experienced mentors, but first he needs to find candidates with interest and basic manufacturing skills who would stay long enough to grow and become valuable.

"It's years of investment to bring people along from start to finish," plant manager Steve Forschler said.

But it pays off for the employee. Wages are competitive with the region's manufacturing range, which he said begins around $14 an hour and goes into the $30s and sometimes more.

Luty said, "Our biggest asset is still our employees," and that the company has resisted offers to move elsewhere.

Devon Luty, 29, is vice president and is the third generation of her family to enter the business that her grandfather, Theodore Luty Sr., founded in 1955 in Hyde Park on Dorsey Lane.

She said it's a challenge to attract people her age into factory work because they have an outdated impression.

"When I was in high school, it was almost looked down upon if you went to BOCES," she said. But, "Those who went, most of them are employed now. Those who went to college, many of them are not."

John MacEnroe, president of the Dutchess County Economic Development Corp., said of Dorsey, "They are an excellent example of a manufacturer that's been in Dutchess County for a significant amount of time. They are the backbone of wealth creation for us, as is each of our manufacturers."

He said, "It's critical that as we continue to go forward into the information age and the nanotechnology age that we maintain our manufacturing base because making things and selling things outside of our region is how we create wealth inside our region."