Luminati Aerospace LLC, the company in contract negotiations to purchase the remaining acreage at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, publicly displayed some of its manufacturing capabilities Friday to celebrate the reopening of a hangar at the former Grumman site and mark its intentions to rekindle the site’s aviation roots.
Luminati CEO Daniel Preston pointed to the history of the Grumman site where the development, assembly and testing of naval combat aircrafts once took place. Past Grumman employees and town officials attended the ribbon-cutting event, as well as some who remain skeptical of the aerospace startup’s viability.
“We’re here today because it can all happen again,” Mr. Preston said. His company’s initial project involves researching and manufacturing high-altitude, long-endurance — or HAIL — unmanned aircraft, he said. After that project is concluded, Luminati plans to be “a major force in the aerospace industry” that focuses on “ultra-thin flying composites,” he said.
As part of that business plan, the company needs to purchase the 2,300 additional acres of property at EPCAL, which it has agreed to buy for $40 million. The company aims to expand its facilities and work with other companies when it expands its operations, Mr. Preston said.
“Luminati’s proposed use of EPCAL will result in thousands of high-paying jobs and an incredibly positive impact on the local economy,” he said.
Former Grumman F-14 pilot Dennis Romano recounted his first day walking into Building 6, where he saw navy attack bombers being constructed. He said he’s happy to see it again being used again for what it was originally intended, manufacturing high-technology airplanes. Retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts also attended the event.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said seeing the company’s equipment, which spun, hummed and printed thin strips of carbon fiber during the event, shows Luminati is the “real deal” and that the company has invested millions in the area in the past 18 months.
“For all the naysayers who say this isn’t real, what you’re witnessing here flies in the face of that,” Mr. Walter said, adding that it’s the first time in all the attempts to sell the property where there is an “anchor tenant” built in.
Candidates in this year’s upcoming town election who have been skeptical of the sale remained so following the event.
Laura Jens-Smith, the Democratic nominee who will challenge the supervisor at the polls this November, said while it was a good opportunity to see the machines in action, she wants to see more of what Luminati can produce, calling the potential sale “too big a leap” at this point.
“I would love to see the aerospace industry come back to EPCAL here, but it needs to be the right fit,” she said. “It needs to be somebody who can actually make it happen.”
Democratic town council candidate Catherine Kent said there is “still some skepticism” in the number of jobs the company could provide, to which Michele Lynch, who is also vying for a seat on the Town Board, agreed, adding that she would still like to see any potential for housing removed from the site.
Luminati representatives have said that despite the zoning, they have no current plans for housing at EPCAL.
“As Riverhead residents, we’re always hopeful for the EPCAL property,” Ms. Kent said. “We want to see a lot of technical jobs and good things come to our town.”
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she is excited for Luminati and wishes them success, adding that she is hopeful the company will bring back jobs the area lost when Grumman left.
Qualified and eligible hearings as part of the contract negotiations are expected to kick off within the next six weeks, town officials confirmed.