Struggling TVI Corp. given helping hand with a commitment from NASA Company gains access to technology for building quick-erect shelters

June 09, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

NASA has come to the aid of TVI Corp., a small, financially struggling Beltsville-based defense contractor.

The space agency's Langley Research Center at Hampton, Va., has signed a memorandum of understanding with the company that provides for the transfer of NASA-derived technology that can help TVI produce one of its primary products, quick-erect shelters for the military.

"This was a significant development for us," said Allen E. Bender, TVI's president.

"We're a small company and this gives us access to a substantial amount of expertise and lot of new technology. "We could never afford to hire the scientists and engineers that will be available to us under this program."

TVI, which has been in bankruptcy proceedings for the past four years, hopes to tap into NASA's brainpower for ways to improve the tent-like shelters it builds for the military for use as field hospitals, headquarters and storage structures.

"We're not sure just how it's going to help us," Bender said, "but we might use the technology to improve the frames on our shelters, which pop up like an umbrella."

Bender said the military uses TVI's polyester-covered shelters around the world in various climates.

"Sometimes they have to heat them. At other times they need to be air conditioned," Bender said. "Well, NASA has been in some ex- tremely hot places and some extremely cold places, too.

"Maybe their experience with structures and materials can help us."

Such technology agreements between NASA and companies are not unusual, according to Dwayne Brown, a spokesman for the space agency. "We have done hundreds of them since NASA was formed."

He said the electronic cruise control used on most cars is a spinoff of a computer system designed to control the speed of the Apollo spacecraft on the way to the moon.

TVI gained some note as a supplier of canvas-covered fake tanks the Army used as decoys in the Persian Gulf war. The 30-employee company also makes heat targets for gunnery practice.

But the downturn in military spending dampened the company's sales.

In addition, TVI has had to cope with chaotic records and financial losses resulting from embezzlement by its former chairman and CEO, Brent Molovinsky, who was forced out in April 1995.

In a report to shareholders in June 1995, the new management said funds were unaccounted for and records were in such disarray that it could not prepare a required final report that would have taken it out of bankruptcy.

This April, Lynne A. Battaglia, U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, announced that Molovinsky had pleaded guilty to embezzlement from the bankrupt company.

Battaglia said Molovinsky misappropriated more than $800,000 of TVI assets for his personal use by transferring stocks, monies and other properties to accounts controlled by himself and members of his family.

Sentencing is scheduled for next month.

The company is still working to straighten out its financial situation and is unable to provide accurate information on sales and earnings.

Bender, who took over as president last year, said this week that TVI has made progress in solving its past problems.

"But," he said, "we still have a long way to go."

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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