As a child, Groton graduate Jeff Cronk was always leading some sort of project- a fort in the woods, the building of microde, or the organizing of a neighborhood kickball game. The specific moment that led to his current occupation he can pinpoint to an opportunity he took advantage of during the 10th grade, when his science teacher, Gary Smith, started both a computer programming class and a basic electronics class. “I was always building things and tearing things apart, so I thought, perfect!" Cronk said. "It was something new, something innovative, something I wanted to try.” It was these high school classes that first sparked his interest in the world of electronics.
Raised by factory-worker parents, Cronk admits he wasn’t interested in college and he never expected to be a businessman, but was planning on going into the working world after high school. His expectations changed a bit throughout his high school experience.“The teachers at Groton encouraged us to try new things, step out of our comfort zone…and then left it up to us to actually do it,” he said, “So support, but not “do it for you” he said was a great lesson he learned as a young man. During high school, Jeff attended TST BOCES to study trade electronics and then developed his skills through an internship at Precision Filters in Ithaca. By the time he graduated in 1986, he had the working knowledge to begin manufacturing electrical boards and confidently charged two thousand dollars on his credit card for supplies. Soon afterward, both he and a co-worker from Precision Filters were working under their first contract and formed the company C & D Assembly.
During those early years they worked long hours with little sleep. “You have to do whatever it takes” Jeff is known as saying, which later became the company slogan. Although Jeff says the work itself was straightforward, he did not feel prepared to run a business. “When you build something from the ground up, you learn along the way. We learned step-by-step as we went along, and a lot of it was the hard way, but I found with a great attitude and hard work you can get through anything,” he said. A tenacious optimist, Jeff always looks for positive people to work with. He currently operates a three-building facility in Groton and employs a staff of thirty. Most of C & D Assembly’s employees are home-grown and learned their trade on the job. “If you have good people they can get it done,” he said. Cronk sets a consistent tone for his company, handling all of the customer requests and project quotes, although he relies on a skilled team of employees to handle each project with special care. Besides a great attitude, the skills Jeff seeks in all his employees include things like being on time and being respectful of others. Jeff added that it doesn’t matter how hard you work if you don’t follow the rules, a lesson he learned from a mentor in high school. When asked what advice he would give his younger self, Jeff Cronk said, “Listen to them Jeff, and then listen again. They know what they are talking about.”