Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

CA's Vortex Engineering is a key player in supply chain to defense companies

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on May 25, 2018

This week CW California and CMTA bring you Vortex Engineering, a Santee based precision machining shop for defense (and commercial) customers like Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Trandes.

The privately owned company has operated since 1972, prototyping and handling difficult jobs that no other company could handle. President Michael Bice, a 23-year veteran of the Navy, is looking to spark dynamic growth through a diversity of operatioons

Vortex's specialized capabilities allowed it to expand into its core segments. "We're broken up into three basic divisions," says Bice. "Vortex Engineering handles our commercial and engineering services, Vortex Testing does our non-destructive testing, and Vortex Fabrication handles the metal fabrication support. Vortex Testing is our newest offering that we started last year, so we're in the growth stages of that.  It's probably about 10 percent of our business right now, and I expect it to grow to about 25 percent within a year."

It's companies like these that support a long supply chain to large manuafacturers in California but also create supply networks of their own.  Raw materials come from a variety of sources, but the company tries to maintain a chain of local suppliers to provide fast, dependable delivery. One of these is steel that's sourced domestically, thus not affected by recent tariffs. The diversity of work and strategic budget planning makes for consistent cash flow through the normal business cycle, something Bice says he's very conscious about.

Here are a few opportunities and challenges before Vortex:

Challenges: Bice admits it's difficult to find more qualified workers in metro San Diego, and he believes this will be a challenge as the company begins to expand further.

"Another challenge is that we're a fairly small shop that requires a higher level of hustle from workers," he adds. "They have to be motivated and work hard. The mix of those things requires a unique individual."

Opportunities: "The biggest opportunity for us is here in the San Diego area," says Bice. "There's room for growth in defense, shipbuilding, and ship repair work. We're working to position our company to take advantage of that in the most effective way. Within the membrane industry, especially reverse osmosis and water filtration, the industry is growing globally. We have customers in India, Germany, Russia, Italy, China, and locally in the U.S. We're one of three U.S. manufacturers making this membrane filtration equipment domestically, so we're in a good position to take advantage of that industry's growth."

Needs: "We're looking to change our goals to be more of a growth business," says Bice. .... READ MORE ON COMPANY WEEK CA

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CA's Virginia Park Foods is country's leading gluten free pasta maker

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on April 18, 2018

This week CW California and CMTA bring you Virginia Park Foods, a Riverside based pasta manfacturer, meeting the exponential demand for gluten free products. The company was founded in 2015 with a 4,000 square foot facility and recently acquired 35,000 square feet in Riverside to accomodate substantial growth. 

Virginia park foods sources most of its products from northern California farms, which makes a perfect case for why California should attract more manufacturing.  Every Californian benefits from long in-state supply chains from manufacturing oeprations. 

Here are a few opportunities and challenges before Virginia Park Foods:

Challenges: "Space is our biggest challenge right now," says Venugopal. "At the pace that we are moving, our 35,000 square-foot facility might soon be too small. We made the conscious decision, however, to stay in California, since this is where we started. We’ve looked at other options such as Detroit and New Jersey, but based on labor requirements and the expertise needed, California is the best place."

Opportunities: "There are always new opportunities in new types of flour," says Venugopal. "Right now legume-based pasta is in demand. Pasta from red or green lentils, black beans, chickpeas are in demand and the retail stores are trying to catch up. Eventually, the opportunities are there for the store brands to pick up on the movement and offer what consumers are wanting. Right now, this is a huge category that has not been fully tapped into by retailers." .... READ MORE ON COMPANY WEEK CA

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Ventura's Hammerhead Industries: Another small manufacturer doing great CA things

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Feb. 26, 2018

We're introducing a new feature to the Champions blog.  We have partnered with CompanyWeek (CW) California to share information on the state's premier small to mid size manufacturers.  CW's featured companies are part of CMTA's Champions recognition program, intended to boost the image of California manufacturing and convince policymakers that manufacturing is the single best way to grow California’s economy and create high quality jobs. 

These companies are committed to California and exemplify the high principles of economic growth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and commitment to their employees. Together the CMTA Champions program and CW's many profiles will demonstrate how California manufacturers make a positive impact on their industry sector, their employees and their communities. 

This week CW California brings you Hammerhead Industries, a Ventura-based company created by two engineers turned entrepreneurs from General Motors. They founded the company in 1995, which focuses on retractable gear products, and have grown to 23 employees.  Their determination and grit show how a small manufacturer can meet the custom demands of 21st Century markets and compete in a global economy.  

They have tremendous opportunities before them, including in the industrial safety industry, but their business environment challlenges remind us that California policies must always consider the impacts on our state's prized manufacturers' abillity to invest and grow.


Hammerhead Industries

Producing a high quality product in the US, two entrepreneurs are meeting the challenges of competing in a global economy and competition from overseas manufacturing. Hammerhead Industries and Gear Keeper products were born from two General Motors engineers looking for a better way to attach and protect their equipment while SCUBA diving. Co-founders John Salentine and Ken Collin tried a basic key retractor to hold their flashlights and gear, but it needed substantially more engineering to make it work properly and to last in salt water and sand.

"We got the product going before 1995," says Salentine. "We linked up with a distributor and put their brand on it. At that time, we operated out of our garage, and around the second year into it, we decided we’ve had to turn this into a real business or someone’s going to copy us." At that point, Salentine and Collin quit their engineering jobs and incorporated Hammerhead Industries for the purpose of designing and building Gear Keeper. ... READ MORE ON CW CALIFORNIA 


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What matters: Making your voice heard

Posted by Dorothy Rothrock, President on Feb. 9, 2018

Taxes, laws and regulations make a big difference to your business.  At the start of each year state legislators introduce hundreds of bills that could impact every aspect of your operations.  You don’t need to read them all…that’s what we do….but your job is to watch our capitol updates, tweets and emails and tell legislators when they are doing the right or wrong things for manufacturers.  What matters is that they learn how bills will impact your business.  When legislators see engaged manufacturers as part of the solution, we will increase our chances for sensible laws and regulations.

Here are some easy steps to take:

  • Contact your legislators – Tell them about your company - what makes you successful, what will help you create jobs and how government policies impact your business.  If you can arrange it, invite them to visit your plant and meet your employees.
  • Support manufacturing allies – Join your local regional groups and host candidates and legislators to your meetings. Another way to make a difference is a donation to the CMTA Political Action Committee. Every dollar that you contribute supports candidates who will be in a position to influence laws that impact manufacturing in California.
  • Make us better lobbyists on your behalf - Your experience in the real world of manufacturing from tax and workers’ compensation to air quality to energy issues make you an expert in how the laws and regulations affect your business. Join a CMTA policy committee where we decide what bills to oppose or support. Visit our website to learn more about the policy committees and how you can be involved.
  • Build the army – Thousands of manufacturers don’t yet belong to CMTA. We can make a big difference if these companies join the fight. Tell other companies about CMTA and multiply our influence in Sacramento. 
  • Use CMTA’s tools to engage when it’s most important – Sign up for mobile text alerts by texting “mfgchamp” to 916-571-9360. CMTA will only send a few key issue alerts by text per year. The links in the text will always be mobile-ready too … or sign up in the red Champions box at to get alerts by email. 
  • Follow CMTA’s twitter @cmta for important tweets to retweet.

Manufacturing matters to California. You and your employees can tell the stories and deliver the messages that will make a difference.  Now is a great time to start!


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Manufacturers can make a difference in the Capitol

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on July 3, 2017

CMTA never stops fighting for manufacturers in California's Legislature and regulatory agencies. One of the biggest challenges is keeping advocacy at the forefront of manufacturers’ thoughts and actions throughout the year.  We need manufacturers to engage on the most pressing issues in the Capitol so policymakers hear from the companies that invest in California and high wage jobs. We encourage active participation in CMTA's Champion advocacy engagement campaigns that range from contacting a legislative office or simply tweeting your company's concerns over an issue.

This week you should show your support for cost-effective climate change policy and a well-designed cap-and-trade system.  There will be an important vote soon on cap-and-trade and we need a chorus of manufacturers driving home the necessity of cost effectiveness in reaching California's new and demanding 2030 climate change goals. 

Click below to watch our 1-minute video on cap and trade and engage on the issue.

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