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Tuesday, Mar 5, 2024

Looming Layoffs for Cash-Strapped Factories

By MARK R. MADLER Staff Reporter At Burbank Dental Lab, the coronavirus outbreak forced the company’s owner to go from 200 employees down to 10. A third-generation family owned firm that makes implants, crowns and dentures, Chief Operating Office Andrew Sedler said that to keep the doors open the company switched to making masks for health care professionals dealing directly with COVID-19 patients. “We are trying to do as much good as possible with the resources that we have in order to save as many people as we can,” Sedler said. As of March 31, Burbank Dental had sunk about $60,000 into the materials and development of the mask that was designed with input from health care workers. The company’s engineers then took it from there and configured the mask from the ground up, Sedler said. The company then used its 3D printers to make the masks, which have totaled about 200 so far. The masks have been sent to Northridge Hospital Medical Center in the San Fernando Valley, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, all in Los Angeles. Some masks were sent to hospitals in New York, Sedler said. “They have been going out and we are trying to spread them across the country,” Sedler added. Retooling Burbank Dental is not alone in how it retooled in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Anheuser-Busch Cos. has started making hand sanitizer at its Van Nuys brewery where it produced Budweiser. Smart phone accessory manufacturer Nomad, in Santa Barbara, has partner factories in China making masks that are distributed around the world. Virgin Orbital, the Long Beach company of Virgin Group developing rockets to take payloads into low-Earth orbit, is now awaiting approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make a simple ventilator for patients with coronavirus. And while Mr. Tortilla does not make any personal protection equipment for use by health care professionals or first responders, the San Fernando company did make the transition from supplying tortillas for restaurants to producing them for retail outlets. Run by brothers Anthony and Ron Alcazar, Mr. Tortilla had been doing some retail sales but now has switched its focus in light of restaurants shutting down their dining rooms under an order from the state. “We are focusing on doing a lot more retail, but it requires more money, more capital, more production, more labor,” Anthony Alcazar told the Business Journal. The pair have invested in boxes and bags to package their tortillas as well as put more employees on the packing side of the business. But with its restaurant customers not making payments and new retail customers on payment terms of up to 60 days, the brothers are facing a financial bind. “We won’t have an income for a solid two months while we wait for payments to come in from new retail clients,” Ron Alcazar said. David Fisher, president of S&H Machine, an aerospace parts manufacturer in Burbank, knows that the coronavirus will have an impact on the business although he’s unsure what it will look like. “There’s going to be some difficult times coming,” Fisher said. Prior to the outbreak, the aerospace industry was already reeling from the decision by Boeing Co. to ground the 737 Max passenger aircraft after two fatal crashes. The Max accounted for about 8 percent of S&H’s business, Fisher said. “That has been off for quite a long time and now you put this virus on top of that. It’s going to hurt,” he added. “There are people considering layoffs as a step to save their business.” Fisher knows of at least two Valley area manufacturing companies contemplating layoffs, both members of the Southern California Manufacturers Group, which Fisher started in 2004 to facilitate sharing of information between companies. To meet the orders of state and city officials to maintain social distancing, the group’s members have turned to the latest technology. “We are using Slack (an instant messaging platform) and Zoom (video conferencing service) to have our manager meetings, so we don’t need to have groups of people in the same room,” Fisher said. Also, there is hope in the form of the $2 trillion stimulus bill from the federal government that includes $377 billion in loans and grants for small businesses. “We are planning on getting advice from our CPAs about how it applies to us and how we can use it,” Fisher said. Anthony Alcazar is also hoping to get some of the funding offered by the government. He has applied for a loan and now waits to hear back. “Without the COVID-19 funds, we are not going to make it,” he added. “I will have to lay everybody off and I will be going out of business.”

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