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Plant Moving Midwest Jobs To Camarillo

An optoelectronics manufacturer is moving packaging and assembly jobs to its Camarillo plant following the closure of its facility in the Midwest. Advanced Photonix expects to add between 10 and 15 jobs once it shutters its Dodgeville, Wis. location by the end of the year. The move is part of the overall strategy by the company to evaluate its holdings to determine which facilities should be closed and which will remain open. With 35,000 square feet, the Camarillo plant was more than able to accommodate the additional work as the volume of business done in Dodgeville was not that high, said Advanced Photonix Chairman and CEO Richard Kurtz. The publicly-traded company develops and manufactures photodetector components and subsystems used in industrial, medical and telecommunications applications. It supplies parts used in equipment testing the external fuel tanks on the space shuttle and to screen baggage and passengers. “The stuff they are doing is pretty exotic,” said Tom Hausken, director of market research for Strategies Unlimited. “It is not your usual every day semiconductor stuff and not something that a lot of people know how to do.” The fastest growing business segment is for high-speed optic receivers used in telecommunications and its terahertz products used in screening and testing. The company also has some exciting technology to drive it in the near term and in the mid term to the $100 million level, Kurtz said. “You really need to be that to justify being a public company and the expense associated being public,” Kurtz said. The company acquired the Camarillo facility when it acquired Silicon Devices Inc. in the early 1990s. The workforce numbers about 70 in both technical and packaging positions. The headquarters for Advanced Photonix was in Camarillo until early 2006 when the offices relocated to Ann Arbor, Mich. where the company keeps its semiconductor fabrication operation. Job loss and creation is often cyclical in the technology industry, said John Fraser, a management assistant in the Camarillo economic development office. For instance, this year Technicolor cut 600 jobs from its DVD replication, packaging and distribution unit and sold off its building, which it later leased back from the new owner. “It is good news to hear about a company in that sector that is expanding rather than subtracting employees,” Fraser said. Growth strategy Founded in 1988, Advanced Photonix has grown considerably through acquisition of smaller companies. The company had been stagnant in revenues for a number of years when Kurtz became active in its management in 2003 and knew things had to change. With every acquisition the company asked itself whether the company it purchased was worth keeping open or should be shuttered. Texas Optoelectronics and Photonics Detectors Inc. were two companies closed 60 days after they were bought. Silicon Sensors, the company acquired in Dodgeville, was a different story in that it brought an advantage of low manufacturing expenses. Closing the facility and moving its operations to the West Coast was something the company thought about and wanted to make sure was the right decision. “Every company has to go through that evaluation,” Kurtz said. With the closing of the Dodgeville location, the company is reduced to just the Michigan and Camarillo plants. Due to its high volume for LED display, telecommunications and computer applications, much optoelectronic component manufacturing is done overseas, particularly Asia. Advanced Photonix, however, produces low- to mid-volume work as a government contractor and for specialty clients. Nearly half its revenues in the second quarter for fiscal 2007 came from the industrial sensing market. Telecommunication followed at 21 percent of revenues, the medical market with 18 percent, and military/aerospace bringing in 14 percent. That type of work keeps R & D; jobs from leaving the country. “It is perfect stuff for that area,” Hausken said. “There are a lot of highly trained people. There is no benefit to cheap labor.” SNAPSHOT: Advanced Photonix, Inc. Founded: 1988 Business: Optoelectronic devices Headquarters: Ann Arbor, Mich., with a plant in Camarillo CEO: Richard Kurtz 2006 Revenues: $23.5 million 2006 Net Loss: $5.2 million 2007 Revenues (projected): $27 – $30 million Employees: 162; with about 70 in Camarillo Customer base: Medical, Military, Industrial, Telecommunications, Homeland Security

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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