ControlTek Manufacturing Founder's Story


It sounds cliché to say that George LaFrazia is a living example of the American Dream, but you would be hard pressed to find a better example. 

Throughout childhood, George worked at least two jobs to help support his single mother and three younger siblings. At 17 he joined the Marines. The Marines gave George a new skill. "At that time, anyone with a decent IQ was sent to technical training," says George. For him, technical school unleashed a new passion... electronics.

After three years with the Marines, George left to pursue electronics, majoring in mathematics at NYU and science at Cooper Union. During this time, George had the chance to work at California Polytechnic Institute in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His initial position was as an Electronics Technician in the Space Sciences Department. He worked his way up to Cognoscente Engineer, working on the Mariner 2 & 4 and Apollo 15 & 16 space missions. He also earned his first of two US Patents while at JPL.

In 1968 George and his wife Donna decided to move their family to the Pacific NW. They relocated to Portland, Oregon and George began work with Allis-Chalmers as a Design Engineer. After only six months, Allis-Chalmers moved their Portland engineering division to Wisconsin. George decided to stay behind with thoughts of starting his own electronics consulting business.

"A wise man once told me, 'The only way to make money is to do it in your sleep'" says George of his early experience consulting. He realized to be successful he would have to manufacture and sell a product. George began to put the word out that he was not only a consultant but also a design engineer and manufacturer with test capabilities. "The beginning of ControlTek was a scary time," says George’s wife Donna LaFrazia, "we were living in a part of the country where we had no extended family and had 3 young children with a fourth on the way!"

After a few years, George landed his first major job manufacturing circuit board assemblies for Hyster. ControlTek started small.  George did sales, design and prototyping while Donna, their children, and several neighbors and friends did the assembly. Eventually the business grew enough to move out of the home and into a facility in Hillsboro, Oregon. After nine months ControlTek moved to a larger facility in Beaverton, Oregon. In 1993, George moved ControlTek to Vancouver, Washington.

ControlTek continued its growth curve as George began to ponder retirement. His children were taking a more active roll in the business. "Of course I wanted them to be involved, but it wasn't until after they were able to experience the world that they could choose to make ControlTek a career," says George. In July of 2000, George retired and appointed eldest son Andy as President.

Retirement for George is full.  He is active in several charitable organizations including the Marine Corp League, St Vincent DePaul, The Sons of Italy and the Veterans Hospital. George and Donna also travel the world and come home to enjoy their seven grandchildren. When he can fit it into his busy schedule, George is also a model train enthusiast.

From humble beginnings, George LaFrazia struggled to become a successful member of his community. When asked what is the most important aspect of a successful business George replied,"Knowing your customer. Know their needs and make it your purpose to solve those needs on a daily basis."