Earlier this year, a small-to-midsized Southern California vinyl trim company decided to leave the Inland Empire and start the transition to Prescott. VinylVisions Company LLC specializes in trim products for windows and doorways aimed at both residential and commercial builders. In March, the company began construction of a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that founder John Halle expects to be fully operational by the end of the calendar year. Up to 15 local employees could be hired on at very competitive salaries by the end of the year, with 30 to 40 of their “best” transferring from California to Prescott. Halle said that while the company stagnated around $5 million in revenue from 2005 to 2012, they are now experiencing 20 percent growth per year, reaching nearly $10 million during the last four years.
Halle said choosing Prescott was not completely straightforward, but leaving California became a no-brainer for this Orange County native/resident and his wife/CFO, Helen, a former bank vice president. “We had to get out of California,” Halle said. “They taxed us to death. We tried to stay creative but all costs saved went back out the door as laws changed. This meant we couldn’t innovate enough to keep competing with China. Helen said we really have to love California to stay here because if we want to keep innovating, we’ve got to leave.” Halle takes his criticism of California’s business environment a step further, believing that distribution is favored over manufacturing because it produces more tax revenue. “There’s more smog because of this,” he added. “Now I have a fantastic and clear view out my window.”
Prescott was not Halle’s first instinct when considering relocation. “We considered Texas. Great people, opportunity and culture, but it’s too far from California and our clients there. And yes, it’s humid, which affects vinyl production,” said Halle. From damp to dry, the Halles looked at Phoenix, even finding a former banana ripening factory 13 months ago that would allow production to go on in a fully refrigerated environment. “But I don’t like the heat,” Halle added. “It’s too extreme and hard on humans in my opinion. I don’t think well in it.”
Always lingering in the back of his mind was Mi Windows and Doors, based in Prescott Valley. Halle first visited this VinylVisions customer in 2009. “Helen thought it was mostly a retirement community, without the support of schools and infrastructure,” Halle recalled. “We drove up and the temperature and humidity were perfect.” Now, Halle is adjusting to cleaner air, stunning vistas, and a five-minute commute. The same benefits of living in the Quad Cities will also be enjoyed by his employees. “It has all the required components, plus food and culture.”
Environmental awareness is not the only value the Halle espouses. Outlined on its website, the VinylVisions philosophy is based on values that revolve around nurturing mutually beneficial relationships, and cutting-edge innovation that keeps the company competitive and even disruptive in the vinyl products category.
“Listen to our customers and seek solutions to meet their needs. Partner with the best vendors and engineers in the industry. Constantly increase quality, service and support. Regularly invent new ideas and products. Be efficient, fair and humble,” the company’s vision statement reads.
Halle elaborated on his strongly held view that positive partner and customer relationships are essential but doomed if you don’t also take care of your employees. “Every team member deserves the respect of management, to be heard and given the tools to succeed, prosper and be promoted,” the statement goes on to read. Even though Halle expects to hire 15 employees locally this year, he might hire 15 more in the near future if all goes as planned.
“We’re working on a training program for locals,” he said. “We’re probably going to be bombarded with talent.”
Halle is not only looking to expand his already vast collection of construction-related vinyl items. As an innovator, he cannot help but see needs in the marketplace, he said. As such, he is holding patents on a new kind of easily placed, durable and highly visible realtor sign he believes could revolutionize this category. “We can do much better [than existing realtor signs],” he said, adding that three prototypes are proving successful for a friend in California.
VinylVisions opted for new construction after finding existing buildings were usually deficient for his manufacturing needs in some way and not intended for modularity or growth. The realtor they had worked with in Phoenix connected Halle with Sun State Builders, working with CEO Jim Chamberlain and sales and development manager Steve Brown to build the Centerpointe West property, just south of the airpark. The square-box building matches the company’s specific process and flow. It also allows for potential resale and division into smaller workspaces. “The building is more than we expected,” Halle said, adding that VinylVisions will hold onto its Norco, California building as an investment property.
While Halle is eager to see his old property continue to gain value, he is planning for it to be the last part of his company to be based outside Prescott (save for a few of his support staff that might be permitted to telecommute instead of relocating.)
“The payoff in Prescott is every month and we get to save more money,” he said. “We knew could flourish here. We’ve been bombarded by people who care about what we can do for the town and how we fit in. We’re used to people trying to shut us down [in California].”
Halle has met with all local economic departments and agencies but said he has not really yet begun tapping into their resources, focusing first on the move. Halle also said he is close to luring his brother’s cabinet machining business to the area, and believes he is showing other companies of comparable size what is possible in the Quad Cities. “Hopefully Prescott can attract more manufacturing,” he said. “We are proving that the logistics are feasible.”
After disappointment, frustration and resources lost courting larger employers during the past decades, local governments are focusing more on environmentally aware companies the size of VinylVisions, especially those that also require a skilled labor force and offer good salaries.
“We look forward to VinylVisions getting up and running in their beautiful new facility,” said Jeff Burt, Prescott’s director of economic initiatives. “The company is representative of many Southern California manufacturers we hear from that are looking for a business-friendly location that supports their desire to grow and succeed. We have seen three out-of-state manufacturers relocate to Prescott in the past 18 months. We are actively looking for other targeted businesses to join them in Prescott. Now that the companies are here, we need to earn our stripes for all existing businesses as a community deserving of their retention and expansion. We have been charged by the mayor and council to do that and we will.”
Halle is excited about the potential. “I feel like we can grow in Prescott,” he added. “If you know how to sell and are good at it, the more you make, the more options you have for expansion. Prescott makes me feel like an entrepreneur for the first time. I’m inspired: I want to build more. I’m buying land next to the factory. I can’t wait to add a building and tell the town that’s supporting me. I feel more motivated to deliver for this town than California.” QCBN
By Tom Vitron, QCBN