Aerotech News and Review, Inc., publisher of five aerospace and military base newspapers, celebrated its 35th anniversary Feb. 1.
A lot has changed in the 35 years since Aerotech’s launch. In February 1986, the world was a very different place.
Ronald Reagan was president. The biggest threat to world peace was the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Few people had heard of an obscure military Islamist group called al Qaeda.
And in February 1986, the first edition of Antelope Valley Aerospace — now Aerotech News and Review — hit the newsstands.
The first issue was all set to go to press in late January 1986, when it had to be scrapped and redone — Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded over Florida.
“We were all ready to go to press and then the Challenger tragedy happened, so what took us two weeks to get ready we had to redo in 24 hours,” said Paul Kinison, publisher. Paul’s wife and business partner, Lisa Kinison, videotaped television news coverage of the accident and reviewed it painstakingly, frame by frame. Antelope Valley Aerospace was among the first media sources to report that the explosion had originated from Challenger’s right solid rocket booster in its Feb. 1, 1986 issue.
What started as a monthly newspaper focusing on aerospace and defense in California’s Antelope Valley, is now a bi-weekly print and digital publication with a digital presence that attracts readers from around the world.
The husband and wife team of Paul and Lisa Kinison started Antelope Valley Aerospace in January 1986 in a garage apartment on Milling Street in Lancaster, Calif. not far from the current Lancaster Performing Arts Center site. At the tender age of 26, Paul already had 10-years’ experience working with newspapers in various capacities, and neither had a college degree.
Internet and affordable fax and personal computer equipment were still some years in the future. Typesetting was ordered from a small graphics shop in Mojave (a 25-mile drive from Lancaster) and delivered on long, printed strips of photo paper, which were manually pasted onto paper layout sheets using hot wax, and augmented with border tape.
Corrections were made using pen, Liquid Paper and photocopies obtained from a public copy machine at the Lancaster Sav-On drugstore. Paste-up was done on the couple’s kitchen table (which still serves as the break room table in the company’s present-day headquarters), with a rolling pin providing the finishing touch to completed pages. A pea-green government surplus IBM typewriter served as a reliable workhorse for generating invoices and business correspondence.
In June of 1987, the publication name was changed to Aerotech News and Review, to reflect a more professional readership and growing service area.
The business grew as well, moving through a succession of three home-based offices before transitioning to office space in downtown Lancaster, just blocks from the original garage apartment. Aerotech incorporated in 1996 and moved to a location in the Lancaster Business Park shortly thereafter.
According to Kinison, the key to a successful business is hard work; a lot of planning; a certain amount of luck, faith and perseverance, and having a quality product or service that fills a need in the community.
Aerotech has been fortunate to serve as past and present publisher of several military base newspapers, starting in May 1990 with the Edwards Air Force Base Desert Wings. The company took on several more base contracts in southern California before being awarded the rights to publish the Nellis Air Force Base Bullseye in 1999. Contracts for military publications in Arizona followed. A highlight in the company’s history was when they secured the contract for the Thunderbolt, a publication for Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., that contract having been held by the prior publisher for 30 years.
The company now produces the following publications:
• Aerotech News and Review, every other week serving the military and defense industry of the greater Antelope Valley and Edwards AFB, Calif.
• High Desert Warrior, monthly digital publication serving Fort Irwin, Calif.
• Thunderbolt, monthly serving Luke AFB, Phoenix, Ariz.
• Desert Lightning News, monthly serving Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz.
• Desert Lighting News, every other week serving Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases, in southern Nevada.
In addition to print editions, each publication boasts a digital edition, separate website and robust social media presence on multiple platforms.
Aerotech News and Review provides information about new aerospace technology and developments and their impact on military operations, and also includes features on noteworthy people and businesses that affect the aerospace and defense communities. The focus of the publication has expanded in recent years to include features on military veterans and non-profit organizations that serve them, as well as the addition of military and aerospace history features that are very popular with readers, young and old.
“Our goals as a company are to educate, inform and inspire our audience; to deliver outstanding value to our advertisers and help them grow their businesses, and to use our resources in ways that support the communities we serve, especially non-profit entities and veteran organizations,” said Lisa Kinison.
“It’s important to us to inform our readers about events that have a direct effect on them, their jobs and their companies,” said Aerotech News and Nellis DLN editor Stuart Ibberson, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has been with the company since 1995. “Just because something happens on the other side of the globe, doesn’t mean it won’t affect people in our service area.”
Although the company has grown over the years, the Kinisons remain very hands-on in the everyday management of the business. Paul Kinison said, “Titles are nice, but I will go out and deliver papers if I have to, whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Aerotech has employed Bill Whitham, senior account executive, for more than 30 years. “I enjoy what I do, and Aerotech has been more like a family. I have been pretty fortunate,” he said.
Production manager Adrienne King and senior account executive Sandy Bueltel have been with the company since 2007 and 2008, respectively. U.S. Army veteran Amy Lamb recently rejoined the Aerotech crew after a hiatus of several years, and now serves as editor of the company’s Arizona publications. Their talents are enhanced by an experienced crew of graphic design, digital media and sales support specialists, as well as a valued roster of free-lance writers and photographers who round out the publication’s news offerings. Kinison said, “We do have a lot of flexibility and we appreciate our people, there is mutual respect.”
He added, “I guess I don’t have the youthful ambitions of taking over the world like when I started, now I just want a solid company that does its job well, serves the needs of our customers and readers, and takes care of our employees. I’m the eternal dreamer, and Lisa is the one who keeps me grounded.”
Lisa Kinison said, “I am just so grateful for our journey over the years — the history we’ve documented, the wonderful people we’ve met who have helped us along the way, and the relationships we’ve developed. With all the changes and challenges in the industry over the years, it’s very clear to us that the hand of God has really been on everything we’ve done. Our informal company motto is, ‘We’re still here!’ And that really is nothing short of a miracle. And as long as God still has a purpose for us, we’ll keep pressing on.”