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Company looking for channel to build a talent pipeline

There’s a demand for high-level engineers in Santa Clarita

Posted: January 25, 2014 7:00 a.m.
Updated: January 25, 2014 7:00 a.m.

Fransisco Cortez welds a frame for a circuit board at the Ronan Engineering factory.

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The jobs are here – and more will be coming – said the owner of Santa Clarita company Ronan Engineering, but the region needs a matchmaking service of sorts to find and attract employees with the right skill sets.

Ronan Engineering, a 50-year-old company, relocated here four years ago. Originally located in the Warner Center in [where], the company looked for a suitable location to relocate his business. After looking in Westlake, Village and Orange County, owner John Hewitson selected Valencia.

After a considerable amount of time looking for the right place, Hewitson felt Valencia had the best future and made for the best commute for his 57 existing employees working out of the local office. More companies work at locations around the globe.

Taking a lease option on his building in Woodland Hills, he spent $1.2 million on improvements on a 59,600 square foot building off of Avenue Stanford. By the time his option to buy was due, however, the value of the property he was purchasing had dropped $1.5 million from $7 million, striking a financial blow, he said.

“We’re a conservative company,” Hewitson said. “We have never really borrowed; we’ve earned our own money.”

A leading manufacturer of instrumentation and measurement systems that help keep refineries, plants, medical buildings, utilities and more running safely and efficiently, Ronan Engineering has been eyed by other companies, he said.

“Ronan Engineering has been sought after by other companies over the years, but I’ve never sold it. I determined it would be a legacy company that can be handed down to the employees,” Hewitson said. “My goal in life now is too add more staff.”

The company has worked on projects and facilities around the world from Los Angeles International airport, to the Edison company, British nuclear submarines, nuclear power stations, and even to working on Ethernet networks in Saudi Arabia. The company has spent millions on research and development, Hewitson said and 80 percent of its sales are occurring in countries like Singapore and Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

But adding the right staff to support worldwide projects is a very major issue for the company, he said. Needing to add more people in the areas of software, analog and general engineering to build sophisticated software and support instrumentation for measurement devices the company produces, Hewitson said finding key employees locally is a huge challenge.

“We have to decide how we’re going to fill that gap,” he said.

Hewitson has given a lot of thought to the community he adopted four years ago. And he wonders why there has not been sharing of information between the businesses and industry clusters out here related to personnel.

What he’d like to see is for someone to take the lead and map out a list of all the key industry companies in Santa Clarita, identifying the types of jobs and skill sets required to match the industries and help businesses grow, he said.

Next, make a concerted effort to attract people to the area for the companies that are here and waiting to grow. Hewitson believes there should be some kind of outreach to skilled workers showcasing the businesses that are here.

The area isn’t in the dark ages, he said. It’s rich in technical areas and aerospace.

“We’re looking at the future. This area is an outward fork of Los Angeles. In my mind, it will be very, very valuable for future generations,” Hewitson said. “But the only thing open to me now is to relocate somebody from back east. It’s been very dismal.”

The continued health and growth of industry in the area is dependent on local companies coming together to work together. Also, the more technology-related businesses that operate locally will benefit the people that live here and the businesses that are growing, he said.

“We’re only here to grow,” Hewitson said. “But if you’re not communicating, you’re not going anywhere. There has to be a system for compiling information, and any money spent doing that will repay itself by local companies growing and for the people living here.”

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