Reunion with Class of '95

After nearly 10 years, the stories from the class of '95 the 32 companies that located in Washoe County that year reflect the full scope of business experience.

Many of the companies that chose to locate in the region in that busy year are thriving and say that their decision to move here was important to their success.

Others slid into bankruptcy, sometimes dragged down by a parent company elsewhere.

And a few of the companies that moved here in 1995 simply disappeared after a few years.

Here are the stories we heard from the class of 1995 at least the ones we could track down and convince to talk to us: Microflex Barely more than two years after Microflex moved to Reno from the Bay Area, the company found itself on the Inc.

Magazine list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the nation.

Strong growth continues for the supplier of latex gloves to the healthcare industry and non-medical markets such as food service, automotive and aviation.

Today, privately held Microflex employs about 100 people at headquarters in northwest Reno and and its warehouse operation in Sparks.

"We're absolutely happy to be here," says spokesman Dennis O'Brien.

"There's never been even a thought of moving from Reno." Castelli USA In the nearly 10 years since it located its manufacturing operations in Sparks, Castelli USA has found that more of its customers are on the West Coast than other parts of the nation.

And that makes the Sparks location a natural, says Roger Smith, who handles logistics for the maker of high-end diaries, day planners and business accessories.

The subsidiary of Italy's Lediberg S.p.a.

employs about 40 people at its Sparks facilities.

DuPont Automotive Refinish Ten years ago DuPont Automotive Refinish consolidated three western distribution centers in Los Angeles, Hayward, Calif., and Portland, Ore., into a single, 45,000-square-foot facility in Stead.

"It's been a very good move for us," said Dennis Kirk, supervisor, who moved from the Bay Area a year after the northern Nevada operation was opened.

Since then, the automotive paint distributor has increased headcount from 28 to 33 and added 14,000 square feet to its building.

Master-Bilt Things worked just fine for Master-Bilt in Sparks, just not quite the way the manufacturer of commercial refrigeration units thought.

The year after the company opened a manufacturing operation in Sparks, executives of the company in New Albany, Miss., realized that the plan didn't work.

So they decided to convert the northern Nevada operation to a distribution center for West Coast customers.

And they couldn't be happier with the center and its five or six employees.

"I don't know how we'd do without it," says Bill Hufman, vice president of sales and marketing.

SanMar Corp.

SanMar Corp.'s Sparks distribution center was big when it opened 10 years and is bigger still today.

The center, which includes a showroom and pick-up center for local customers, was 121,000 square feet and employed 30 people when it set up shop here in 1995.

Today, the building is 420,000 square feet and employs 115 workers.

The Preston,Wash., company is a blank apparel supplier, selling T-shirts, hats and other products to screen printers, embroiderers and promotional products firms that customize the products with corporate, school and club logos.

The company opened its Sparks center to provide overnight service to its California, Arizona and Utah customers while doing business in the friendlier climate of Nevada, said Lee Strom, marketing manager.

Anixter When Anixter came to Sparks in 1995, the distributor of wire, cable and communications components had but a handful of employees in northern Nevada.

Today, the company based in Evanston, Ill., employs about 100 people in a distribution facility in the Golden Valley area that replaced its first warehouse in Sparks.

The growth reflects one thing, says Joe Recchio, the company's vice president of operations for the West: Reno is a very good location to serve the western region.

Universal Solutions International Universal Solutions International is in the reverse logistics business.

The Winston-Salem, N.C., based company, with a plant in South Reno that services western customers, takes returned products from retailers such as Rite-Aid and Safeway, repackages them and sends them back to the manufacturers.

"The manufacturers have agreements with the retailers to take back a certain amount of products," said Mike Kapic, general manager of the South Reno plant.

And, in turn, the manufacturers contract with Universal Solutions to get the returned products from the retailers back to the makers.

The Nevada warehouse moved from Sparks to South Reno in late 2001, and doubled to 218,000 square feet.

During peak time, post-holiday in January and February, the South Reno plant employs about 175 people, said Kapic.

The rest of the year it employs about 125 workers.

Parascan Tech Although Parascan Tech is listed among companies that launched operations in Reno in 1995, a company executive said last week that the northern Nevada operations never amounted to anything significant.

These days, callers to the company's number in northern Nevada are referred to its corporate headquarters in California.

Coast Aluminum & Architectural Hayward, Calif.-based Coast Aluminum & Architectural opened up a shop in Sparks to service local customers, including machines shop fabricators who supply gaming machine manufacturers, according to J.J.

Schnarr, branch manager.

The 15,000-square-foot Sparks operation employs five people.

American Air Racing American Air Racing continues to develop high-performance race aircraft at its facilities at the Reno-Stead Airport.

The company employs one fulltime and four part-time workers.

"Our employee turnover has been much higher than we expected so the number of employees seems to be constantly changing," says founder John Parker.

Computerized Screening Inc.

Computerized Screening Inc.

moved from San Dimas, Calif., to Sparks when company founder Charles Bluth decided he wanted to live in northern Nevada.

The friendly business environment didn't hurt, either.

Since then the company has sold more than 6,000 of its kiosk health monitoring stations to 3,000 pharmacies, corporations and healthcare facilities.

CSI expanded its corporate space from 8,000 square feet in 1995 to 29,700 feet today, and maintains a workforce of between 25 and 45, according to Tracy Sullivan, director of sales and marketing.

Precision Valve Inc.

Straight talk from recruiters helped bring Precision Valve Inc.

to Sparks.

The company employs seven.

It's a contract manufacturer, making parts for aircraft hydraulic flight controls.

Owner Kevin Huffer recalls that he met with recruiters from several other states while he studied relocation of his company from Southern California.

A team from Northern Nevada Development Authority and Sierra Pacific Power won him over.

"They did not give us any false expectations," he said.

"Overall, it's been a good experience." Univenture Inc.

Univenture Inc., maker of compact disk sleeves and other computer-products packaging, has ridden the boom and bust tech roller coaster, but maintained a stable workforce of about 25 at its Sparks manufacturing plant and distribution center.

The Columbus, Ohio, company opened its Sparks facility to serve its western customers, said Ross Youngs, CEO.

Now the company is hanging its hat on an injection molded loose-leaf binder it calls the Unikeep, said Youngs.

Last year Univenture sold 7 million of the binders and, if sales keep growing, may start manufacturing the product in its Sparks plant.

Quality Bearing Services Inc.

Quality Bearing Services recycles rail bearings.

"All the train wheels have bearings, and they wear out," said Dave Liming, vice president at its Sparks facility.

"The railroad companies send them to us and we remanufacture them." Its customers include Union Pacific, CSX and other major railroad companies.

Quality Bearing Services' parent company, Brenco in Petersburg, Va., manufactures the wheel bearings its Sparksbased division recycles.

Since moving to northern Nevada from southern California, Quality Bearing Services has doubled its space to 36,000 square feet, tripled its units produced, and doubled its headcount to between 40 and 45 workers, said Liming.

Heritage Vinyl Products Heritage Vinyl Products, maker of vinyl fencing, deck, rail and siding, left northern Nevada in February 2003, after a change in the company's business model made the warehouse unnecessary, according to Brian Hammbacher, president of Heritage parent company Outdoor Technologies Inc.

in Macon, Miss.

"We used to have large dealer network, but over the last few years we've changed to delivering truckload volumes to regional centers," he said.

MLSG Home Loans MLSG Home Loans started in 1990 with 13 people, and moved to Reno in 1995 with 30 employees.

Today the wholesale mortgage lender employs 160 people who work in two South Meadows buildings.

Soon MLSG, which increased its loan volume 240 percent last year, is breaking ground on a 45,000-square-foot building in South Meadows to consolidate its operations.

Proko Industries Paint manufacturer Proko Industries filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and closed up shop when its five-year lease expired.

"Costs were too high and prices too low," says Bob Waite, CEO, Lynxx International, the Cambridge City, Ind., holding company that owned Proko.

"The bigger problem, though, was as the larger makers whose products contained asbestos filed Chapter 11, the lawyers started coming after the smaller manufacturers." Schering-Plough The pharmaceutical giant Schering- Plough got just what it wanted when it opened a distribution center in Reno.

"It has proven to be an ideal location with excellent access to transportation services and with optimum transit tune time to our West Coast customers," says Rosemary Yancosek, executive director of corporate communications for the company based in Kenilworth, N.J.

The distribution center employs 12.


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