June 17, 2016 by Adriana M. Chavez, NMSU News Center
Growing up on a farm in La Union, N.M., Joe Alvarez dreamed of earning a degree in physics from New Mexico State University to become an astronomer and escape all the dirty jobs he had to do. Little did he know that 20 years later, the multi-million-dollar company he and his wife built from humble beginnings would provide first-class mobile missile tracking and missile support equipment to protect the lives of troops in the field during both Gulf Wars.
Alvarez and his wife, Brenda, own EMI Technologies, a Las Cruces-based company that has had a global impact, specializing in the engineering and fabrication of customized mobile shelters used by the U.S. military. Although the impact of EMI is felt across the globe, the two have maintained a strong commitment to providing jobs for the Las Cruces community that contribute to the vitality of the local economy. The company currently has contracts with the U.S. military, L3, Lockheed and Raytheon, among other agencies.
Recently, the company expanded its headquarters from 31,000 square feet to 56,000 square feet, allowing additional room for storage and large projects. They’ve maintained contracts with White Sands Missile Range for the past 25 years, and often send employees around the world, including South Korea and Saudi Arabia, to help with any necessary modifications and other customer needs. Their commitment to customer service has earned them a positive global reputation and they recently earned their ISO 9000-2008 certification, which recognizes the company’s efforts in quality management.
“We listen to their needs and build them what they need. Our prices are very fair and very competitive,” Brenda says.
EMI stands for electromagnetic interference, which consists of radio waves, microwaves and other sources that can affect communications. The company builds shielded containers that help protect the integrity of the electronics inside the shelter from that electromagnetic interference.
“We build a really unique product,” Joe says. “Most of the companies that do what we’re doing last only about six or seven years. We’ve been able to do what we’re doing for 30 years. Not getting away from our main focus, we concentrate on one specific area of missile tracking equipment and we’ve been able to perfect it.”
The company also builds specialty vehicles, including chemical testing labs, medical and dormitory vans, nuclear hazard detection equipment shelters, fiber optic cable repair trailers, antenna and optical equipment transporters, high voltage transmission equipment test trailers and assay vans.
Joe graduated from NMSU with a bachelor’s degree in physics in May 1978 and originally intended to pursue a doctorate in astronomy. He now dabbles in amateur astrophotography.
“At the time, astronomy was and is a Ph.D. program, and you had to get your bachelor’s in physics first,” Joe says. “That was my intent, to be an astronomer, so I got my degree in physics. I did a lot of work with the research center running the telescopes and working on the Voyager Spaceship program to Jupiter with Reta and Herb Beebe, Clyde Tombaugh and others.”
After graduating, Joe moved into an apartment not far from campus. In August 1978, Brenda moved in next door and they were introduced by a mutual friend. Brenda, who is originally from Santa Fe, graduated from NMSU in May 1981 with a degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. The couple married that summer.
Brenda Alvarez ’81 is a 2016 inductee in the College of Business Hall of Fame.
Tombaugh helped Joe get a job at White Sands Missile Range. He was the optical mechanical engineer for Lockheed for six years, and then worked for another company in a similar position for two years. Eventually, Joe’s government counterparts recommended he start his own business based on his work. At the time, Brenda worked with a small defense contractor and knew how to manage contracts and bill the government. Together, they’ve built a solid marriage and a solid business partnership.
“I think that, at the end of the day, the science product that we produce is pretty spectacular, but the business end of it has its own challenges,” Joe says. “She has a lot of stress handling the money and the daily business. My job is to get the next job, so I do a lot of proposal writing and the bidding. The hard work of our employees has also helped us be a success and get repeat business from our customers.”
EMI Technologies is now a company with about 50 employees, most of whom are NMSU graduates. Their right-hand men, Joe Granados, who started with EMI in 1997, and Mark Bielcik, who started in 1991, are both NMSU graduates. The Alvarezes work with NMSU’s College of Engineering and Doña Ana Community College’s welding program to hire additional graduates and interns as needed. They also believe in providing opportunities for students through their financial support and have established scholarship endowments in the College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Alvarezes’ NMSU roots run deep. Their son Adam, who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from NMSU, works in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Department of Energy. Their daughter, Nicole, who earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from NMSU in 2010, works in Albuquerque. And their youngest daughter, Kaitlyn, earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from NMSU in 2013 and now works in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Joe and Brenda’s parents, their siblings and several aunts, uncles and cousins are also Aggies.