Manufacturing companies in Nevada County still thriving, despite COVID-19
Strolling through the quaint historic shopping district in downtown Nevada City or Grass Valley, you would never know that Nevada County is home to a thriving manufacturing industry. Those who venture past Broad Street and Mill Street to the Loma Rica industrial park near the airport will find a sign manufacturer, a producer of essential oils and natural body products, and a company that manufactures high-end fabric cutting tables, among other manufacturing companies. Not all of these companies are having an easy time with the pandemic, but some have been declared essential businesses and have found ways to pivot.
Autometrix is one of those companies who has figured it out. They manufacture cutting solutions for rolled goods, from fabric to carbon fiber. When CEO Jonathan Palmer moved back to Nevada County to work for his father’s business and his wife wanted to find an engineering job, he had no idea there were local manufacturing and technology companies where she might find work. Today, Palmer champions these businesses for the Nevada County Tech Connection, an initiative of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council (ERC), where he sits on the board. “There are lots of technology and manufacturing businesses that exist and thrive in Nevada County,” he said. “They are creating diverse jobs and bringing money into the community. People just have no idea that they are here.”
Palmer knows a thing or two about thriving in Nevada County. His business has grown steadily year over year for the past six years. From FY18 to FY19, Autometrix grew its revenue by 40%, and this year they are on track to grow another 20-30%. COVID hasn’t deterred them. The company has retained all 38 of their employees, most of who live locally, and the company even hired interns over the summer.
Autometrix did have to adjust when COVID hit. “We’ve never been so busy not making money as during that first month and a half of the pandemic,” said Palmer. “Our customers pivoted, and we supported them. We worked with the local hospital to guide customers in how to manufacture PPE. In the end, it worked out. We sold a few machines to existing customers who got contracts for localized PPE and companies that are expanding to manufacture PPE.”
A large part of Autometrix’s success comes from forging strong relationships with organizations in the community like the hospital and the ERC, where he met the leaders of local educational institutions. “I’ve gotten multiple interns simply by knowing the right people at NU or Sierra College,” said Palmer. “Doing business in a small community relies on a good network, not Indeed.com.” Networking is how Autometrix fills the majority of its open roles, which require a variety of skill sets including marketing, engineering, finance, sales, customer service, management and technology.
“It’s possible to succeed as a manufacturing business in this community,” said Palmer. “We just need to talk to each other and grow awareness of what is happening here in Nevada County.”
Erika Kosina is a local freelance writer who writes about the tech and manufacturing industry in Nevada County and beyond. Her website is http://www.erikakosina.com.
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The strength of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council rests foremost in the monthly gathering of the areas business and civic leaders, who share pertinent news, challenges and successes. That collaboration was evident at the…