Despite thoughts to the contrary, the rubber industry is alive and thriving in California.
It is true that the last of the tire makers shut down operations in the state years ago, and there is no automotive industry to supply.
But the rubber shops that remain generally are more sophisticated firms offering highly technical rubber goods, sometimes as a result of a regulatory environment like no other in the country. Despite dealing with a government that many call unfriendly to manufacturing, there remains a core rubber industry—from rubber goods makers to compounders to tooling firms and other suppliers—that has a long history in the state and doesn't appear to be going anywhere.
Firms in the Los Angeles region, particularly, view themselves as a tight-knit “rubber family,” surviving an evolution of changes and coming out as growing enterprises that are resilient in spirit and successful in business.
As such, they benefit from the positive side of California. That includes being in a state that raises more venture capital than the other 49 states combined, is No. 1 year after year in new patents and, yes, has weather that allows it to be more productive because there won't be any snow days.
Bruce Meyer, Rubber & Plastics News executive editor, recently hosted a roundtable of Los Angeles area rubber executives at R.D. Abbott Co. Inc.'s headquarters in Cerritos, Calif., to gauge their thoughts on the difficulties of operating a rubber manufacturing shop in the region. Representatives from Specialty Silicone Fabricators Inc., Santa Fe Rubber Products Inc. and Vip Rubber Co. Inc. also took part.
They weren't shy about discussing the obstacles rubber firms—and manufacturers—face in California. This included workers compensation costs, the California Environmental Quality Act, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and inspectors with a mentality they will find something to act on. On the flip side, they run successful enterprises and—despite other thoughts—have no plans to leave.
As R.D. Abbott President Keith Thomas put it about life in California: “We still have this Conestoga wagon-type mentality. Brave, bold people come here to do business. I think that infects our culture and our customers' culture.”