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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Tire Maker Treads Lightly Into Factory in SoCal

Coker Tire Co., a Chattanooga, Tenn., maker of vintage-style tires and wheels, consolidated its manufacturing operations in City of Industry with the opening last month of an 80,000-square-foot factory that will also serve as its West Coast distribution center.

Workforce, infrastructure and the Southern California car culture helped draw the company, which has closed plants in Illinois, Oregon, San Diego and Fresno as part of the consolidation.

“The custom wheel industry really started in Southern California,” said Wade Kawasaki, executive vice president of the company.

As a result, he said, most of the infrastructure, raw material suppliers and subcontractors are based here. And Southern California is a large market for Coker’s business, too.

He said the move would allow Coker to save as much as 30 percent on shipping costs because it won’t have to truck raw materials or finished products to a variety of locations. Skilled labor in the region was also a decisive factor. The company, which now employs 35, almost all local hires, in Industry, will be hiring an additional 15 people at the new facility.

Despite all the benefits, moving to Southern California was still not an easy decision for Coker.

“It does cost us a lot more money to be in California, and especially in Los Angeles County,” Kawasaki said.

Taxes are high, he said, adding that the company looked at locations in the city of Los Angeles but found “a very hostile (business) environment. It almost felt like they are trying to prevent you from doing business.”

Coker had a difficult time dealing with permits and setting up, a sharp contrast to what it had been offered in Las Vegas, which the company seriously considered as another option for the factory.

In addition to tax incentives and trading credits, Kawasaki said the process offered in Las Vegas was “as easy as it could be.”

In the end, however, proximity to raw material suppliers and a skilled workforce overcame other considerations.

Corker has been growing and had considered consolidating its manufacturing facilities for a couple of years, but was only able to get going last year.

The company moved now, Kawasaki said, because interest rates remain low and property values, while rising, have not peaked.

Meatless in El Segundo

Beyond Meat, a company that makes imitation meat from plant proteins, launched its second product line, “beef-free crumbles,” last week.

This launch followed the company’s move last month to El Segundo from West Los Angeles. About 20 people work at the new headquarters and another 20 in its manufacturing facility in Columbus, Mo.

The company first came to market in summer 2012 with “chicken-free strips,” a chickenlike vegan product made from plant proteins.

Having worked in clean energy for a couple of years, company co-founder Ethan Brown grew increasingly committed to animal welfare, which led him to meet Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff at the University of Missouri.

Together, they realigned plant-based proteins to mimic the fibrous structure of meat.

The company now sells its products across the nation in Whole Foods Markets, farmers’ markets and smaller natural food stores.

Bob Connolly, marketing director, said the company has been working on getting the products into major retailers and would have announcements on that front at the end of this month.

Beyond Meat has a pool of high-profile investors, including Bill Gates, and Twitter Inc. co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams.

Scrap Deal

Gardena scrap recycler SOS Metals Inc. was acquired last month by Precision Castparts Corp. in Portland, Ore., a Fortune 500 company that makes metal components for aerospace, energy and other industrial applications.

SOS, which was privately held, recycles titanium, superalloys and precious metals in the United States, Britain, Brazil and Asia.

This acquisition was regarded as a further sign of Precision’s continuing consolidation of the aerospace supply chain.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Staff reporter Kay Chinn can be reached at kchinn@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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