101MFG.com kicks off; seeking 'as many stories as there are about wine'

[caption id="attachment_18803" align="alignright" width="338" caption="The new 101MFG.com Web site is a portal for regional manufacturing companies."][/caption]

NORTH BAY -- 101MFG.com, a regional expansion of SantaRosaMFG.com, launches today.

Begun as a Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce enterprise to form local manufacturers into a trade group, 101MFG is contacting 700 to 800 manufacturers along the 101 corridor and in Napa and Solano counties about an array of services and a Web portal designed to give regional manufacturing both a voice and a bulletin board.

Founder Dick Herman said he expects 101MFG.com membership, now at 40, to quickly pass 100 and build from there.

"I'm getting inquiries from all over the North Bay and beyond," he said.

The group's new Web site has moved beyond the marketing functions it originally contained. 101MFG aims to be a place where manufacturers can find suppliers, parts, material, facilities, certification and other resources as well as post profiles, resumes, positions and events, and both post and respond to RFIs and RGQs.

"Manufacturers hate to post positions on the popular job sites because they get too many responses," said Mr. Herman. "We know there's a need for regional manufacturers to have their own site."

But beyond bringing companies to each other's and the community's attention, the site is intended to give visitors from out of area, out of state and overseas a picture of what is available in the North Bay.

"Companies of a certain size frequently want to relocate," said Jim Happ, CEO of medical supply maker Labcon North America in Petaluma and soon to be a member of the 101MFG board of directors.

"We relocated from Marin, as many companies do when their work force can no longer afford to live there or a larger space is needed."

According to Mr. Herman, the North Bay region is becoming high on the list of possible destinations for companies that want to relocate to an area with less traffic, better air, a robust labor pool and a generally healthy lifestyle.

"The drop in housing values makes this area particularly attractive right now," he said. He's in talks with several companies, both in and outside the state, which could add 1,000 jobs to the region by moving here.

"The profile of manufacturing companies already here demonstrates the businesses we want to attract," he said. Those include electronics assembly, advanced metal fabrication, precision machining, thin film electronic test and assembly and medical devices.

Also well represented in the region are food producers, pharmaceuticals and wineries.

"With Telecom Valley we saw the pitfalls of just looking for the home run industries. Diversity is much healthier in the long run," said Mr. Happ.

Beyond growing the manufacturing  community, 101MFG seeks to strengthen it. Members will have access to reduced-rate insurance provided by Vantreo Insurance and pre-ISO certification consulting from Isocert Solutions, both in Santa Rosa.

Mr. Happ has also offered to talk with member companies about ISO certification.

"It can be overwhelming for a small company. But it's worth it if a company wants to do business abroad. We obtained certification 10 years ago, and it multiplied our overseas business by a factor of 10," said Mr. Happ.

Mr. Herman would like to see 101MFG members develop new products together, "maybe moving up from a component to a sub-assembly," he said.

The organization has already been instrumental in fostering partnerships among members, said Jeff Weber, spokesman for Agilent Technologies, which recently joined.

"We had the membership over for a tour and some of the members got to talk with our procurement people. As a result we identified several partnerships with local companies," he said.

It makes sense for 101MFG to become regional, he said.

"Our economy is regional. Focusing on the heath of small to medium regional manufacturers and bringing them together to speak with one voice is a very powerful resource for the entire community," he said.

Its leaders also intend the portal site to become a manufacturing news venue with RSS feeds from local news publications and trade publications.

And if members have some news they want to share, 101MFG will get it out there to the right channels, said Mr. Herman.

"I'd like to see as many stories about our regional manufacturing activities as there are stories about wine,” he said.