Follow-Up File: Paso Robles manufacturer is expanding

Name: Kevin Meyer

Job: President

Organization: Specialty Silicone Fabricators Inc., a Paso Robles medical manfuacturer

What they said then:

In November 2008, The Tribune reported that Specialty Silicone Fabricators Inc. would build a new 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at 3077 Rollie Gates Drive in Paso Robles.

The maker of medical components planned to consolidate its operations, then divided into three buildings together occupying 72,000 square feet.

Under a 99-year lease with the city, Specialty Silicone would demolish one 23,000-square-foot building to make room for the new one.

One of the largest private employers in San Luis Obispo County, Specialty Silicone didn’t expect the physical expansion to lead to new hiring.

“I don’t foresee any real leaps as far as having new people come on,” said marketing manager Paul Mazelin. The manufacturer employed 200 at the time.

What they say now:

Specialty Silicone demolished the old building in October and expects to lay the foundation for the new one early next month (April), according to President Kevin Meyer.

“The rains did a nice job on us in January,” he laughed. He expects to finish the building in early 2011.

Meanwhile the company, which makes long-term medical silicone implants, such as gastric bands and pacemakers leads, is expanding into thermoplastics.

After 2009 sales were “up slightly,” he said — the company projected a decline — Meyer is optimistic that 2010 sales will be “up over last year.”

“The last few years we’d been thinking ‘where would we expand?’ ” he added. “But we had several existing customers ask us, because they’re having problems with their existing (thermoplastics) vendors.”

To make room, Specialty Silicone has decided to keep the existing two buildings. The new one is now slated to measure 120,000 square feet, with administration on the second floor and production and engineering below.

It will include “clean rooms” with special walls and flooring to reduce dust and keep products contaminant-free.

“The clean rooms cost more than the construction,” Meyer said, but declined to cite figures.

With 220 employees now, expansion into the harder plastics should bring a new wave of hiring once the larger facility is done, Meyer said. Specialty Silicone also has locations in Michigan and Tustin in Southern California.

One benefit of recessionary layoffs has been the pool of choice candidates applying for positions, Meyer pointed out.

“It’s a good time to hire some top-notch talent,” he said.

Since April 2009, Specialty has been increasing employment in Paso Robles, including one thermoplastics specialist to start early production.

“It’s one of the rare times we’ve had to go outside the company and even outside the area for the talent that knows how to operate that technology,” Meyer said. “Typically we promote from within and hire people from Cal Poly on the engineering side.”

— Raven J. Railey