Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tech sector finds home in Fairfield

Tech sector finds home in Fairfield

The business press is full of stories about how the technology sector is one segment of the Bay Area economy that is growing, even booming in some locations. Software, specialty electronics and small specialty manufacturers seem to thrive in our risk-taking, highly educated mega-regional setting. And, these companies provide quality jobs for those with the right skills.

Fairfield may not be considered part of Silicon Valley, but our city is home to a variety of technology companies that may fly under the radar. These interesting small companies (or branches of larger companies) help broaden the local economic base and provide unique products and services in the regional, national and even international market.

One unique company that has been in Fairfield since 2004 is Tronex Technology, Inc., located at 2860 Cordelia Road. Founded in Napa in 1982, Tronex manufactures precision hand-cutting tools that are used primarily by professionals engaged in electronics manufacturing (particularly in making printed circuit boards), wire and cable assembly, medical device manufacturing, scientific research and jewelry making.

“We manufacture top performing tools for a niche market that extends across the globe, including Europe and the Far East,” said Arne Salvesen, president of Tronex. “In many applications, our tools will be used for several hundred thousand cuts before they require sharpening. People are very often surprised that we actually manufacture in Fairfield as a lot of manufacturing has moved overseas. We use American specialty steel and other raw materials. We design and manufacture with such care that the performance of our tools is exceptional, which enables us to be competitive.”

Salvesen is an engineer and Harvard MBA who has become enamored with the business advantages of operating in Fairfield. He mentioned to us that he looked at several expansion sites in the region and chose Fairfield because it was centrally located and allowed Tronex employees the opportunity to live close to work. Salvesen also noted that both Solano Community College and Napa Valley College have played a vital role in employee training by providing classes in machine tool programming and drafting.

Large, international technology companies have also found Fairfield a good fit for their business plans. A newcomer to Fairfield, TenCate Advanced Composites, recently moved from Benicia into the former Tri Eagle Beverage space at 2450 Cordelia Road. The parent company, Royal TenCate, is based in The Netherlands and focuses on high-tech specialty fabrics and composites. Their markets include protective fabrics for firefighters, specialty military armors, space composites, geosynthetics, industrial fabrics and artificial turf. According to the company website, TenCate fabrics were worn by the responders to the recent industrial fire in northeastern Fairfield. TenCate will employ approximately 100 people in its Fairfield facility.

Fairfield also supports home-grown businesses as well. Dependable Plastics has operated for more than 25 years at 4900 Fulton Drive. Dependable custom manufactures plastic casings and coverings for medical devices and tools. They can make everything from simple hand-tool cases to full-scale machine coverings. Some of the coverings showcased on the company website are amazingly complex and intricate.

Technology companies look for a variety of things in choosing a location for their business including location, affordable and available space, cost of housing and an educated workforce. In addition to local community colleges, Solano County is the home of a local Workforce Investment Board, a private nonprofit organization that has been contracting with Solano County for 28 years to help with workforce education and job placement. According to Loraine Fernandez, program administrator, WIB uses individualized programs to help unemployed and displaced adults, youths and veterans with retraining and job advanced placement. Technology fields that are popular now with WIB clients include fiber optics and Internet security. WIB also offers a Career Center open to everyone. Interested people should visit the Solano Employment Connection Career Center, 320 Campus Lane in Fairfield.

The WIB is offering a Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at University of Phoenix, 5253 Business Center Drive. Call WIB at 863-3596 for more information or to register.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or email at kdumas@fairfield.ca.gov or bkmiller@fairfield.ca.gov.