U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson learned about the towering accomplishments of Yankton’s Ehresmann Engineering during a special presentation and tour of the factory Monday.
The engineering firm specializes in communication tower design, engineering and manufacturing. Many of its cell towers are disguised to look like flag poles or pine trees as many townships now require some sort of cell-tower camouflage.
“Lots of communities seem to be getting concerned about the aesthetics of towers,” Johnson said. “You all had to get really good at low-profile towers. That has made you an expert in delivering what 5G (fifth-generation cellular) needs from an engineering perspective.”
Eric Taylor, the Ehresmann Engineering representative giving the presentation and tour, agreed, adding that with 5G towers must be shorter and closer together to increase network speed, and camouflaged for a more urban setting.
Ehresmann Engineering employs about 50 people and still engineers and builds the towers in Yankton, Taylor said.
When asked by Johnson which jobs are the hardest to fill, Taylor noted there is a great deal of competition for skilled welders, mostly because of the number of manufacturers in Yankton who compete for welders.
“We do have a couple of welding programs in town and we do hire from them,” he added. “We work very closely with (RTEC).”
In addition to cellular towers, Ehresmann Engineering has spent about 20 years working on specialized towers along the U.S. northern and southern borders for a system called the Remote Video Surveillance System (RVSS).
“The system was designed to be able to get daytime and nighttime video of people as they are coming across the border, in real time, to a dispatch person that would then be able to dispatch certain patrol people to that area,” Taylor said. “It gives them a great way to see how many people are coming, be able to track them as they are going, and it can allow U.S. Customs and Border personnel (CBP) to know how many people to send. If there’s a potential issue or concern with that group coming across, then maybe it can help identify that prior to them getting here.”
Johnson’s visit was geared specifically to learning more about the RVSS system and the tower Ehresmann Engineering has been installing in the Rio Grande Valley sector of the southern U.S. border.
A video from the RVSS system in Detroit, located along the U.S.-Canadian border, showed a boat crossing the river at night and letting off two passengers.
“So, they have come across to the American side, they are getting off the boat and walking into Detroit,” Taylor said. “That’s less than a minute to get over that fence and then they are into Detroit. Once you get into the city, in some of those areas, it’s really easy to blend in. That becomes one of those issues that people don’t realize.”
This particular project has been going on for 20 years and there are now such towers all over the Detroit area, Taylor said.
Other government projects include and Ehresmann Engineering tower in Iraq mounted with a radar system that scans for incoming rockets and calculates their destination so people in that area can be warned. A pair of towers at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada are mounted with equipment used by remote pilots to communicate with predator drones.
Johnson said he was impressed with the company for providing 50 jobs in Yankton and for being involved with deploying 5G towers.
“I am also fascinated by what this company has been doing to keep our country safe,” the Republican representative said. “They’ve been doing it for years on both the northern and southern border. Technology like this, where we are putting eyes on the people who want to sneak in and out of this country, is a much bigger solution than people realize.”
Johnson also said he was proud to see a South Dakota company being a part of that solution.
“I feel a tremendous amount of pride that we’ve got a company like this,” he said. “(They are) talented technicians who are a part of keeping this country safe — and have been for years.”