Jeffrey Palombo, sector vice president and general manager of the land and self protection systems division of Northrop Grumman, was recently named the 2012 Businessman of the Year by the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce.
Northrop Grumman, a global security company, is one of the largest employers in Rolling Meadows and is the largest defense contractor in Illinois, but Palombo refers to the company as a "silent giant" in the suburbs -- as many people know little or nothing about it.
"The technology and capabilities that come out of Northrop Grumman make a significant difference which allows our war fighters to come home safely," Palombo said during his Businessman of the Year acceptance speech in May.
Q. What exactly does Northrop Grumman do?
A. It's a giant company that's broken into a lot of sectors, but primarily what we do in Rolling Meadows is about aircraft survivability. We work on radar warning systems that let planes know when they are being detected, infrared electronics systems and countermeasures that help the troops narrow in on their targets and do surveillance. Survivability -- by the very term -- is making systems that save lives, and that's what we do. It's really about the people who are on the front lines for our country.
Q. How are you involved in the community?
A. We have a series of grants or scholarships to work with high school students and help peak their interest in science, math, engineering and technology. We see declining numbers of kids interested in those topics, but if we can get them involved at a younger age, we may be able to inspire them to go into this field in the future. We explain what an engineer is, team them up with mentors and help them work on projects. It's an excellent opportunity. We also do a lot to stimulate the local economy because with more than 2,000 employees we're buying from local suppliers in the area.
Q. What does it mean to Northrop Grumman that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are drawing to a close?
A. It's our job to be a few steps ahead and preparing for what the next war may be and the war after that as far as what equipment and systems our military will need then. We don't try to make a political statement. You could make any argument about why we should or shouldn't be at war, but if our men and women (are sent) to the front lines, we want them to come back safely, and we can all agree on that. The world-class technology we produce here in Rolling Meadows helps make it possible for those soldiers to come home safe.
And once they do, we want to make an effort to keep hiring veterans, which we already do quite a bit of.