SIMTECH was founded in 1988 by Olav Leite, a naturalized-US citizen born in Bergen, Norway, in 1933.  He grew up in Molde, a small village on the Norwegian coast, with his two younger brothers, Kåre and Arne. His mother was a homemaker, and his father was a cabinet maker.

When Germany invaded Norway in 1940, Olav and his family lived under German occupation until the war ended. However, Olav graduated first from the local high school class. He joined the Norwegian Army, where he graduated from Officers Candidate School, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.  He completed his Norwegian Engineering Degree in civil engineering at The Technical Institute, The Corps of Engineers, Norwegian Army, ranking second in his class of 21 officers.

He continued to serve as a commissioned officer in the Norwegian Army. He was assigned to the United Nations Emergency Forces and stationed in Gaza as an engineering officer and platoon leader.

Sponsored by a granduncle who had emigrated earlier, Olav moved to the United States in 1960, settling in Hayward, California.  Stolte, Inc., an engineering consulting company, hired Olav as an assistant engineer.  Soon after, he was offered a new position at American Pipe and Construction Company in Hayward as a Layout Engineer for pipelines and treatment plants.

As Olav was one of the few unmarried engineers in the firm, he was relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, to complete the layout drawings for a water pipeline for the city of Tucson.  While in Phoenix, he learned of Thunderbird School of International Management, based in Glendale. After completing the pipeline project, Olav enrolled full-time at Thunderbird, earning a Master’s in International Business in 1965.

During this time, Olav met his wife, Britt Lawenius, a registered nurse on an exchange program from Sweden. In 1965 they married in Britt’s hometown of Råda, Sweden.  Olav began his international business career with J.I. Case, stationed in Stockholm, Sweden, as the Regional Sales Manager for Scandinavia. Their first child, Karin, was born in Stockholm in 1966, followed two years later by their second child, Richard.

In 1969, Olav accepted a new position with Massey-Ferguson, relocating the family to Beirut, Lebanon.  Here Olav was responsible for a new line of construction equipment, working with dealers in the Mediterranean and Arab states.

olav and britt

In 1971, Olav joined Koehring International as Territorial Sales Manager for the Middle East and Africa.  In 1972, he was transferred to Johannesburg, South Africa, to set up a regional sales office serving southern Africa.  His many successes included selling the largest crane ever supplied by Koehring into Africa for use by the Angolan Port Authority in Luanda.

While still in Johannesburg, Harnischfeger P&H recruited Olav as Marketing Manager for South and East Africa. In the face of fierce competition, Olav succeeded in selling the biggest crawler crane ever imported into South Africa.

After spending six years in Johannesburg and celebrating the birth of their third child, Tom:  Olav and Britt decided to move closer to family. Olav accepted a position with Cummins Engine Company as an Accounts Manager.  This new opportunity brought the family from Johannesburg to London, England.  Olav worked in the New Malden, Surrey facility and was responsible for crucial industrial and construction OEMs such as Terex, Aveling-Barford, Ingersoll-Rand, Compair, Coles, and some Scandinavian accounts.

In the mid-eighties, the U.S. dollar strengthened against the British Pound, hurting U.S. exports.  Cummins Engine Company struggled to maintain export sales and had to regroup and downsize.  Olav lost his job with Cummins but shortly afterward secured a new position with Kongsberg, a large state-owned, industrial Norwegian conglomerate.

Initially, Olav worked in London in Kongsberg’s oil and gas services division.  Later, appointed U.S. Sales Director for the aerospace division, Olav and the family moved back to the U.S. Olav was based out of the Pratt & Whitney facility in East Hartford, Connecticut, as Kongsberg was a revenue-sharing partner on the PW4000 engine and manufactured parts for the military F-100 engine. The family settled in Simsbury, Connecticut.

Olav managed the commercial activities between Kongsberg and Pratt & Whitney. In addition, he was responsible for sales of Kongsberg’s F-100 engine parts to the USAF, administered from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. As Norway was an F-16 operator and one of the European Participating Air Forces which purchased the F-16 fighter aircraft, Pratt & Whitney licensed Kongsberg to manufacture aircraft parts components in Kongsberg, Norway. Olav grew the sales of aircraft parts components from 20 M to 40 M.  Olav, well-liked by the Commanding Officer at Kelly Air Force Base, succeeded in making Kongsberg a prime vendor to the U.S. Air Force.

As is often the case, unexpected circumstances can change one’s life.  When a division of Kongsberg supplied numeric control devices to Toshiba in Japan, Toshiba resold the devices to the Soviet Union, enabling the Soviets to produce silent submarine propellers.  During the Cold War, the Toshiba sale violated the Coordinating Committee of Multilateral Export Controls agreement (CoCom).  As Norway was a member country, the U.S. debarred the Norwegian industry from supplying military components to the USAF.  Sales of aircraft parts components to Kelly Air Force Base stopped.  Even though this violation was committed by another Kongsberg facility, the whole group was debarred.  Kongsberg was reorganized and made into a private corporation, renamed Norsk Jetmotor.

Olav was made redundant during this transition, but the unexpected led to new opportunities. After working for multinational corporations his whole career, Olav and Britt started their own company. In 1988, Olav registered SIMTECH as a sole proprietorship with the Town of Simsbury, Connecticut, and SIMTECH was born.

Britt was responsible for the accounting, and Olav ran sales and marketing. Initially, Olav represented local Connecticut-based manufacturers on a commission basis working with European customers. Gradually, Olav began distributing directly to the NATO F-16 operators.

After graduating from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and working in office copier sales for several years in the Minneapolis metro region, Richard joined Simtech as Marketing Manager in the summer of 1994.

Tom, a graduate of Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, joined Simtech as Contracts Manager in December 1995.