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Monday, April 22, 2013, 7:00 am

SenarioTek expands with satellite test tool

‘We grew in the worst of the economy’

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    SANTA ROSA — SenarioTek has been able to survive economic slumps over its 10 years in business by diversifying target markets for its products used in testing wireless communications systems.

    SenarioTek test technician Clay Spickard works with a customized version of the company's RF switch matrix at the new southwest Santa Rosa facility.

    SenarioTek test technician Clay Spickard works with a customized version of the company’s RF switch matrix at the new southwest Santa Rosa facility. (image credit: Jeff Quackenbush)

    The 25-employee company earlier this month expanded to a 12,000-square-foot facility at 1201 Corporate Center Pkwy. in southwest Santa Rosa after the expiration of a leased space near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport. Besides having more space for configuring custom products for large-scale testing environments, the building also had an electrostatic dispersion coating applied, helpful for maintaining the ISO certification earned in January and crucial to building highly sensitive equipment that can partially or fully fail from the slightest spark, according to Simi Ghiasvand, founder and chief executive officer.

    SenarioTek's new Santa Rosa facility at 1201 Corporate Center Pkwy.

    SenarioTek’s new Santa Rosa facility at 1201 Corporate Center Pkwy. (image credit: Jeff Quackenbush)

    “Our products have to be high quality and not fail,” she said.

    That’s because an emerging market is in supplying testing interfaces for Ka-band communications satellites. Because of the need to know what is causing problems as the satellites move from one type of test to another, the most desired test equipment travels with the vehicle to each test.

    NASA thermal vacuum test chamber

    NASA thermal vacuum test chamber (image credit: NASA)

    SenarioTek is one of a handful of companies that makes a switching interface that can go into a giant thermal vacuum chamber that simulates the extreme heat, cold and lack of pressure and not only physically survive but also contribute fewer signal anomalies than the satellite itself, according to Ms. Ghiasvand. If the unit fails in the chamber, where testing costs $200,000 to $500,000 a day, the test has to start over and take days to restore the vacuum.

    Born during the telecommunications equipment slump that shed several thousand jobs from North Bay companies, SenarioTek outlived the loss of large contracts for North Bay operations such as Cisco Systems and Tellabs, which closed in the middle of the last decade. The secret was finding new markets, namely defense and satellite communications contractors.

    In 2008 when defense work seemed to be lucrative but margins were shrinking, the company shifted more focus on commercial work, such as making systems for original equipment manufacturers and sold under their names. That paid off last year, when worries about the federal budget “sequester” made defense contractors push back orders, according to Ms. Ghiasvand.

    “We grew in the worst of the economy,” Ms. Ghiasvand said. “In this business, make sure you do not count on one company.”

    Mike Flitner of Keegan & Coppin represented SenarioTek in the lease deal, signed March 13. Barry Palma of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank represented property owner Santa Rosa Corporate Center Associates.

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