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Makeover Westinghouse has anew look in Maryland. The longtime defense contractor will sort your mail, protect your home and do much more.


It's 10 a.m. and right about now -- if everything had gone according to plan -- Dick Linder would have just finished milking the cows.

He'd be sweeping up the milking parlor at the family farm, getting ready to drive into town for some spare parts. Or maybe he'd be planning to hop on the tractor and get a head start on the spring plowing.

But the son of a dairy farmer in upstate New York, having become fascinated with the new world of electronics during a stint in the Air Force, took a different path. And this morning finds him sitting in the wood-paneled president's office of the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group -- his office -- the place from which he's leading the local Westinghouse unit into a new era.

His aim is nothing less than a major restructuring of the unit, to expand it from its longtime role as a defense contractor into the realm of commercial manufacturing.

His long-range goal: to open up the company to new markets as a manufacturer of products that make everyday use of sophisticated defense technology.

The group already has taken some steps in that direction through its involvement in home security systems, airport radar and mail-sorting equipment. Even real estate development is on the agenda -- Westinghouse is involved with plans to revive the Power Plant in the Inner Harbor and to develop Worldbridge Center, a cultural, trade and investment complex with an Asian focus planned for Middle River in Baltimore County.

"The electronic age is just exploding," he says in a rare interview. And, he adds, the scope of the local division's new products is limited only by "what we can visualize as we move out into the future."

Mr. Linder's ambitious plan could have a dramatic impact on Maryland's economy -- especially on the hundreds of subcontractors that work with Westinghouse.

With sales of slightly more than $3 billion last year, the Maryland-based electronics arm of Westinghouse Electric Corp. would rank as the state's seventh-largest company, just behind Black & Decker Corp. Twenty-seven percent of the Electronic Systems Group's (ESG) sales came from non-DoD (Department of Defense) customers last year, up from 16 percent in 1986.

"Westinghouse is one of the largest employers in the state," says J. Randall Evans, secretary of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, and "has an economic impact of billions of dollars each year on Maryland's economy."

Let there be no doubt about it, Mr. Linder says, the Pentagon will remain ESG's single largest customer in the late 1990s. But he thinks the local division's total business will be just about the reverse of what it is today.

The new commercial business thrust is expected to account for much of the group's growth throughout the 1990s, providing economic stability not only for the local division but for its more than 1,500 local subcontractors and suppliers as well.

"I would visualize that we would surely be doing $7 billion in terms of volume by [the year 2000] then," Mr. Linder says, "maybe $4 billion of non-defense and $3 billion of defense."

Four billion dollars in commercial market sales? Ronald L. Kaufman, president of ISPA Co., an industrial coatings company in Southwest Baltimore that is one of Westinghouse's subcontractors, rolls his eyes toward the ceiling, as if to say: "I'll // believe that when I see it." A few seconds later, he adds: "Dick Linder's reputation in the industry is that when he says something you can pretty well count on it."

Mr. Kaufman's suggestion to Dick Linder: "Have a brainstorming session with 25 or so subs to come up with ideas." A lot of companies depend heavily on ESG, he adds, and "Westinghouse should be saying, 'Help us grow, help us find new markets of opportunity.' "

Five years ago Dick Linder took over as head of the local Westinghouse unit with a long tradition in Maryland. But the operations here were far different from what most people thought of when the name Westinghouse popped up.

For most people in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, the name Westinghouse stood for household products, things such as televisions, refrigerators, portable mixers, washing machines and light bulbs.

But in its factories around Baltimore, Westinghouse made none of those things. Instead it was producing the machinery of war, much of it electronic equipment so sophisticated that the average person would hardly understand it.

Workers at a plant off Wilkens Avenue built one of the first radar systems in the early 1940s. It looked primitive -- like a rooftop TV antenna -- but it worked. It detected a squadron of Japanese dive bombers making their way to Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, but the early warning was not heeded. An Army officer who had little faith in this new equipment chose to ignore frantic phone calls that Sunday morning from a young private sitting in front of the radar screen.

Another plant off Baltimore-Washington Boulevard near Lansdowne turned out torpedoes that helped turn the tide of the Pacific naval battle in World War II.

Today, Westinghouse is still making radar equipment here, but they are much more sophisticated units. The F-16 Fighting Falcon used in the Persian Gulf war had a Westinghouse radar tucked in its nose.

And the Westinghouse AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) planes played a prominent role in the gulf war by guiding thousands of bombing missions.

In the past 50 years, Westinghouse has grown into Maryland's largest manufacturing employer with more than 15,000 workers. And while the products have changed, the customer has remained essentially the same: the Department of Defense.

This is what Dick Linder is about to change.

Shortly after taking over in 1986 as president of the Defense and Electronics Center, as it was called then, the 59-year-old electrical engineer from Utica, N.Y., saw the company's heavy dependence on the whims of the Pentagon budget as a problem, and he began moving research and development toward a variety of new commercial markets. The problem of relying too heavily on military contracts showed up recently when the Pentagon canceled the Navy's A-12 attack plane. It forced the Electronic Systems Group, which was to supply the A-12's radar, to lay off about 1,200 workers.

Mr. Linder's goal is to have half of the group's total sales come from non-defense sources by 1995, and it has already moved into some interesting new lines of business. Take, for example, its recent agreement with the Soviet Union on a study plan that could eventually lead to a $10 billion program to modernize that country's commercial air traffic control system and free its air space to more international flights.

The day after signing that agreement, Mr. Linder announced the formation of a joint venture with a Tokyo electronics company for development of a computerized printing technology that the company says will eventually make laser printers obsolete.

Another idea that Mr. Linder is pursuing is a nationwide home security system that not only alerts police if a burglar breaks into a home, but also responds if there is a fire or a medical emergency. The system might also do other things, such as automatically call your office if your children don't come home from school on time.

In the years ahead, the electric car in your garage may be powered by a Westinghouse motor.

Police and airport security guards might carry small hand-held -- scanners that can tell if someone is carrying drugs or explosives. And someday medicines might be made in a Westinghouse-built space factory, where microgravity would permit more uniform manufacture.

The technology to do all of this is already here, Mr. Linder says.

ESG sought out its first new market of opportunity in the late 1970s when it realized that the same air traffic control radars it sold to the Air Force could be used to guide commercial jetliners across the country as well as in and out of crowded airports.

"This was really our first non-DoD contract and it turned out very successfully," says Mr. Linder. The radar units are installed at more than 120 of the country's busiest airports, including Baltimore-Washington International -- just next door to the Linthicum factory where the units are built. Since 1985 the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered more than $1 billion of Westinghouse air traffic radars.

The next major step in his diversification plan came in December 1989 when Mr. Linder established the new Commercial Systems Divisions to coordinate all of the ESG's non-defense operations.

He picked Edward N. Silcott, one of the Electronic Systems Group's rising stars, to head the operation. Mr. Silcott, 49, grew up in Catonsville and spent his entire career with Westinghouse. He joined the local division in 1960, working in the assembly shop during the day while attending night classes at the University of Baltimore, where he eventually received a degree in industrial management followed by a law degree.

In at least one phase of his new job Mr. Silcott might be seen as a lieutenant in President Bush's war on drugs. The Commercial Systems Divisions' involvement in the administration's drug interdiction program goes far beyond the development of a hand-held sensor that can tell if someone passing through U.S. Customs is carrying narcotics. It makes radar used in Coast Guard planes to track drug smugglers. Other Westinghouse radars are mounted in giant tethered balloons that can scan the entire Caribbean basin looking for the small, low-flying planes frequently used by drug runners.

The new business thrust usually takes one of two forms. One is a natural extension of the group's defense technology to new markets such as development of a commercial air traffic control system based on a similar system for the military.

Westinghouse has also made a series of acquisitions to move into or expand its penetration in new markets. For example, in December, it acquired Schlage Electronics, a company based in Santa Clara, Calif., that is a worldwide supplier of electronic access-control units.

Westinghouse entered the home security market less than a year ago and almost overnight became the fourth-largest company in the industry, behind Brink's Inc., ADT Inc. and Network Systems Inc.

"This business could be huge," Mr. Linder says. "I don't want to get too excited, but there is the potential for millions of homes. It will be a multimillion-dollar business, there is no question about that."

The first monitoring center is based near Dallas, but there already are plans for another at ESG's corporate headquarters complex under construction in Linthicum. The service, which costs $19.95 a month, after the customer pays a $200 installation fee, is offered in 28 states. It is scheduled to become available in Maryland this summer.

Another of the Commercial Systems Divisions' newest ventures is out of this world. Under a National Aeronautics and Space Administration-sponsored program, Westinghouse has been selected to coordinate development of a low-cost rocket capable of putting a 1,500-pound satellite into Earth orbit at a fraction of the cost of current launch vehicles.

Westinghouse would serve as prime contractor for the entire program, and would build the satellites that would serve as tiny "factories" in space. Other companies would build the rocket and would be responsible for recovering the orbiting satellites.

Satellites in space were probably dreams of but a handful of U.S. scientists when Dick Linder left the family farm in 1950 to begin a four-year term in the Air Force that changed his life. He laughs when he talks about taking a military aptitude test that determined he had a talent for electronics and sent him off to school to learn how such equipment as radar worked so that he could instruct others.

"That astounded me," he says, "because at the time I did not really have any training whatsoever in this field. That's what got me started. I just loved it. I adapted quickly, so I decided that when I got out, I was going to college."

It marked the end of any plan for him take over the daily milkings, but just the beginning of a career that would have a significant impact on Westinghouse's operations in Maryland.

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