Innovation in the Air
It was August in the early 1950s, and the Central Florida air hung heavy and humid. Two visionaries, Homer Denius and George Shaw, set up shop in a World War II-era naval air base building at an airport in Melbourne, Florida.
They had just launched a revolutionary start-up company called Radiation Inc. and were working on innovative telemetry technology to track missiles and rockets and help bolster the burgeoning space program nearby.
Meanwhile, 1,000 miles away in the cooler temperatures of Cleveland, Ohio, the leaders of Harris Seybold (later Harris-Intertype) had innovation on their minds as well. Inside the major printing technology company, they were brainstorming how to produce the highest quality color web-offset presses anyone had ever seen.
Although worlds apart physically and technologically, these two companies were on a course that years later would lead them to each other as they came to envision a common future.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the results, a business merger that would prove to be one of Florida’s most significant and the establishment of one of the state’s largest technology companies – Harris Corporation.
“Radiation was a tech start-up before the term was coined, even if it was a long way from Silicon Valley,” Harris Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Ross Niebergall said. “Harris-Intertype had a history of innovation that started before the turn of the 20th Century. Those two heritages are the foundation of today’s technology-driven Harris Corporation.”
The vision of the Harris-Intertype/Radiation Inc. merger was to meld print and electronic communication technologies. It worked in the short term, but the electronics side of the business increasingly overshadowed the print operations.
Leaders would decide Harris-Intertype should become an all-electronics company and change the name to Harris Corporation. In 1978, they would make the strategic choice to move headquarters from Cleveland to Melbourne.
Over the ensuing decades, Harris continued its tradition of transformation and innovation – investing heavily in new technologies and increasing its customer base as it matured into a modern innovation leader.
During that time, Harris engineers introduced technology that formed the basis for the first Washington, D.C.-to-Moscow hotline, GPS satellites, Wi-Fi, biometric fingerprint readers on most Apple iPhones, seatback entertainment consoles on airplanes and stealth fighter jet communications.
From the base industries of printing and telemetry, the company moved to become the pace setter in tactical communications, electronic warfare, avionics, air traffic management, space and intelligence and weather systems.
Harris has delivered more than 1 million tactical radios for U.S. warfighters and allies around the world. Weather imagery and ground processing technology for NOAA helps safeguard billions of people around the world every day. Harris maps two thirds of the globe for the U.S. military and intelligence communities and has been part of every GPS satellite ever launched. The company supports five of the FAA’s seven major NextGen air traffic modernization initiatives.
Today’s Harris is a leading technology innovator, solving customer’s toughest mission-critical challenges by providing solutions that connect, inform and protect. The company supports government and commercial customers in more than 100 countries and has approximately $6 billion in annual revenue. In Florida, Harris grew from the small Radiation crew of a few dozen to 6,300 employees operating in 15 locations across the state.
Harris has 17,000 employees around the world, including 7,700 scientists and engineers who continue the tradition of anticipating innovation, re-calibrating to address customers’ most pressing needs and keeping a step ahead of the competition. It’s a sense that visionaries in Cleveland and Melbourne decades ago would recognize in an instant.