Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

An invitation to CMTA member companies

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Dec. 9, 2018

In 2018 CMTA partnered with CompanyWeek to profile Manufacturing Champions -- part of a growing archive of California profiles of manufacturing companies.

The stories of modern manufacturing and the rewarding and exciting career paths within the sector must be told, and they should be told through the lens of California's very best manufacturers and their workers.

We'd like to feature your company and your workers in 2019, so CMTA and CompanyWeek will pick up 100 percent of the costs for all CMTA members. Don’t miss this opportunity to showoff your operations, employees and products. CMTA members such as Jelly Belly and BWC have previously been profiled.

If you are interested, the steps are simple. We'll assign a writer to interview you, by phone, and send a photographer to your location.  If you are a CMTA member and would like to be profiled, please contact me at or 916-498-3347. 

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CA's HDA firm is a gem in specialized and precise MFG

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on July 1, 2018

This week CompanyWeek and CMTA bring you HDA, a Lake Forest based development firm that serves a broad range of medical, aerospace, and industrial clients, providing both engineering and contract manufacturing services.

The privately owned company has operated since 1983, recently becoming well known for their products that help clients pass regulatory compliance or solve highly technical and difficult challenges. HDA also sources most of its supply chain - mostly circuit boards - from other California companies.  

With just 16 highly technically skilled employees and almost no automation, HDA is a good example of today's small manufacturing firms that are highly specialized to provide extremely customized products, all the while providing high wage jobs up and down the supply chain.

Most of HDA's supply sources are domestic and CEO Hunt Dabney says he likes to keep it that way as much as possible. "We work with local California communities to populate circuit boards, and we use local laboratories quite often for testing," says Dabney. "Some things, such as electronic distributors, however, get sourced overseas because they are not readily available here in the United States. We try to find the parts that we need, and at times, we have to source them overseas."

Here are a few opportunities and challenges before HDA:

Challenges: Market penetration. "We aren't a large firm, so there is a limit to the number of programs we can run," says GM Jon Schmidt. "Firms like us go in and out of being in a marketing phase. I've spoken with friends who own similar firms who agree that at times, you get too busy to take anything else on. You start finishing programs, then you are back to marketing again. We are working to improve in this area."

Opportunities: "In terms of startup companies, the medical industry peaked last year," says Dabney. "It's interesting to support people as their products are going into clinical trials. We have companies that we work with where we manufactured a product for them 10 years ago, then they'll get acquired and the new owner will not retain the information needed to manufacture the same product. Then, those companies will ask us to build the product back up. We have good record retention and can always help in this area."

Needs: Qualified software, electrical, and mechanical engineers with medical and/or aerospace industry experience. "We always want to network with other companies," adds Schmidt. .... READ MORE ON COMPANYWEEK CA

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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 CompanyWeek 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 COMPANYWEEK 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 CompanyWeek 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 COMPANYWEEK 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 COMPANYWEEK CA


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