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Kintronic Labs brings 'radio to the world'

December 14th, 2011 10:49 am by Staff Report

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Located in a non-descript building on the outskirts of Bristol is Kintronic Labs, which for more than 60 years has been "Bringing Radio to the World."

Founded in 1949 by Louis King in his father’s real estate office on Shelby Street, Kintronic Labs is known world-wide for its high quality and services available to the AM broadcast industry. The company is operated today by King’s children, Gwen and Tom. Tom is president, CEO, and Gwen is vice-president, CFO.

Louis King went to work for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in the "heyday" of radio.

"After the end of World War II, radio was booming and television was still in its infancy," Tom King explained.

After working for RCA as a high-power transmitter engineer in New Jersey, Louis King decided to return to his hometown of Bristol and work as a broadcast business consultant engineer. In this capacity, he helped radio stations all over the country install their transmitters and then submit the station’s "Proof of Performance" to the FCC.

With his connections to RCA and radio stations around the country, Louis King was well-known for his expertise and experience. After a few years, he began designing and building radio equipment in his father’s office on Shelby Street.

"He built what was called back then an AM Directional Phasing Cabinet in that small office space," Tom King said. "After they built it, they realized it was too big to fit through the door," Tom laughed. "So they had to take off the entire door frame to get the equipment out of the building. That’s one of those lessons you learn early on that you don’t repeat."

Louis King continued consulting and building equipment and, all the time, financing his work with bank loans to keep the company afloat. Then, in 1977, the government of Brazil asked him to take on an extremely challenging project - placing three high-power transmitters on one tower. "This was three, 100 million kilowatt transmitters, and this was something that had not been done in many places in the world at that time," Tom said.

As a result of that one project, Louis King was able to pay off all his bank loans and ramp up his manufacturing capabilities at a new facility. According to Tom King, Kintronic Labs has remained a debt-free company to this day.

And the company has continued to grow and prosper in a world of FM and satellite radio, and supplies and installs equipment in all 50 states and at least 100 foreign countries. For instance, Kintronic Labs is currently in discussion with the government of the Fiji Islands to install a station that will cover the entire archipelagoes for emergency broadcast services.

Kintronic Labs is currently working on a project for the Sultan of Oman in the Middle East. This includes designing, building and installing three high-powered facilities.

As a Christian-based company, Kintronic Labs works a lot with the Christian broadcast community and Voice of America to provide services to Third-World countries. They have provided a one million kilowatt transmitter to an undisclosed location that broadcasts to countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have a 50,000 watt AM transmitter packed and ready to be shipped to Columbia, South America, that will provide ministry into Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.

Working in the company his father founded has given Tom King an interesting life. The irony is that initially he was drawn to a career in teaching. He received a Master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee. While working on his Master’s, he had a teaching assistantship and a professor encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D.

He went to the University of Arizona to pursue his degree and worked on a research assistantship that involved a remote atmospheric sensing project developed by the National Science Foundation. After leaving there, he worked in weapons development for the military until he was summoned home for his grandmother’s death.

"All the time I was in school and working, my dad always asked me to come back here and work with him. When I came for my grandmother’s funeral, I realized how overworked my father was and decided to stay."

The decision turned out to be fortuitous for both Louis and Tom King. A few months after Tom’s return, Louis King suffered a major stroke from which it took two years for him to recover.

"I have sat out on a rug in the desert in Saudi Arabia with Saudi engineers, eating goat meat and rice by hand under the stars. I have installed equipment in Sri Lanka while a war raged a few miles from us. I have seen and experienced people of many different cultures. It has been a joy and a blessing," Tom King said.

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