Paul BrinkmannContact ReporterOrlando Sentinel
A high-tech business that makes crystal and silicon lenses for fighter jets and tanks was all shook up over construction of the Orlando City Stadium across the street — and now it’s suing the soccer team, the city and the general contractor.
Mark Hess, owner of E.R. Precision Optical, says in a lawsuit that he lost business for about two years from 2015 through 2016, and more than $1 million, because the city and the stadium contractor did nothing to minimize vibrations from construction of the sports facility.
The company invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in super-sensitive equipment and nano-measuring tools in recent years — all of which were rendered useless when stadium construction started, according to the lawsuit filed May 24 in Orange Circuit Court.
“They claimed they would do something, have a schedule and let us know, but nothing was done,” Hess said. “We met with the contractors and the city about 50 times and nothing was done.”
He and his co-workers said vibrations lasted all day in some cases, and they couldn’t perform certain work until 5 p.m. when the construction stopped. Hess’s plan now is to move to a different location on the city’s west side.
“One of our tables actually walked across the floor one day because the vibrations were so bad,” Hess said.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office said the city declined to comment on the lawsuit. Although the suit names the soccer club as a defendant, a spokeswoman for the club said they were not aware of the situation.
“If there was any communication about this matter between the stadium’s construction partners and the company mentioned below, the Club was not made aware of this or any issues between these parties during the construction phase of the stadium,” said Jacklyne Ramos, senior director of communications for Orlando City.
Barton Malow, the general contractor, did not respond to a request for comment.
Precision Optical bakes silicon and germanium at extremely high temperatures — up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit — which allows it to realign atoms into a perfect diamond-lattice structure. That yields strong heat-resistant rolls that are sliced thin to be used as coverings for windows protecting infrared targeting systems and other sensors on military equipment.
After the lenses are cut, they are precisely smoothed and shaped on sanding tables, by hand. Nano-topography measurements can only be taken in a vibration-free environment.
During a visit to the shop, an employee tapped a table lightly with his foot while measurements were being taken, and the display screen showed violent disruption of the gauges.
Hess said he bought the high-temperature ovens and hired specialized talent to avoid buying the silicon and germanium structures from European agents, who charge a great deal, or from Russian and Chinese outlets, which are not considered friendly to U.S. security interests.
Eighteen people work at the firm, which has customers that include Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Hess’s attorney, Tucker Byrd, said damages could be more than $1 million.
“It bogged everything down and made us late on a couple projects,” Hess said. “It just made life difficult for a while.”