Biz Buzz: Performance Tech shutters SLO office

Performance Technologies of Rochester, N.Y., is closing its San Luis Obispo operation, resulting in a loss of 17 local jobs.

“The SLO operation has been very worthy with good people, but it’s not Rochester, N.Y. where our headquarters are,” said Dorrance Lamb, chief financial officer of Performance Technologies.

He declined to further explain why the San Luis Obispo location is being closed, saying only that “Last year, we had a very challenging year. It was just a business decision.”

The company’s stock (Nasdaq symbol PTIX) has fallen 38.85 percent over the last year to $1.69 a share Wednesday.

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the company reported revenue of $21.1 million, slightly down from the year-earlier period of $21.2 million and a net loss of $6.8 million compared to a net loss of $6.5 million a year earlier.

The local division is the last remaining remnant of Ziatech Corp., a technology firm that originally moved to San Luis Obispo in 1979 as a two-person operation and grew to employ more than 200 people locally before it was sold in 2000.

San Luis Obispo employees learned Monday about the closure, part of a corporate plan to reduce up to $4.5 million in operating expenses annually and eliminate 22 total positions, or 12 percent of Performance Technology’s work force, the company said.

“We were all kind of expecting it. Our industry is slow to react to the economy,” said an engineer at the San Luis Obispo location.

The site’s main function is to design single-board computers for the telecom industry.

Local management declined to comment to The Tribune.

All but one of the 18 local employees, mostly engineers, will lose their jobs during a staggered closure through March 31, according to the engineer, who added that they’re getting “more-than-adequate” severance packages.

Ziatech’s original founder, Bert Forbes, sold it to Intel for $240 million at the peak of the tech bubble in 2000. In 2002, Performance Technologies bought Intel San Luis Obispo for $3.8 million. Half of the company’s then-140 jobs were cut in the sale.

Performance Technologies consolidated operations at its corporate headquarters in Rochester in 2005. It also operates in San Diego; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; and at a sales office in Milton Keynes, UK, according to its website.

Mike Manchak, president of the Economic Vitality Corporation of San Luis Obispo County, said he believes the Performance Technology news “demonstrates the advantage of having a company whereby the leadership is in this county, as opposed to having the leadership elsewhere, so when a company decides to consolidate, you don’t run the risk of having your location closed.”

He said the closure reminded him of the recent closing of another technology firm: Symantec Corp.

That Cupertino-based computer security company shut down its San Luis Obispo branch in spring 2008 in a consolidation that shed an estimated 45 employees.

— Julia Hickey