On Thursday, December 14, the City of San Jose hosted 2017’s final Silicon Valley Manufacturing Roundtable. Executives and business owners from prominent San Jose manufacturing companies attended, representing companies ranging in size from 50 to 1600 employees. They heard of two panel discussions that covered the issues every manufacturing organization in the Valley is focused on: talent and growth.

The first panel focused on entrepreneurship and growing a manufacturing organization. Specifically, the panel examined how entrepreneurs and business managers can grow locally based manufacturing companies from a small business (less than $5M revenue) to a medium-sized one of $20M and beyond. Speakers for this panel were Kevin Anderson of NPI Solutions, Itamar Frankenthal of Rose Batteries, and Anna Zuo of Bank of the West.

Kevin Anderson shared his experience of working in the electronics manufacturing services industry for nearly 18 years before launching NPI in 2000. In the 18 years since that launch he has expanded the company to four locations, including two South Bay facilities and two facilities in the Asia-Pacific.

Conversely, Itamar Frankenthal of Rose Batteries, described himself as an “entrepreneur by acquisition.” Since he purchased the long-standing Rose Batteries in 2016, He has leveraged the organization’s existing strengths to scale into a sizable force. How does he feel about debt? “Debt is a tool, and if you use it the right way it can help you in achieving your organizational goals faster.” Bank of the West’s Anna Zuo seconded that notion, adding that “the best time to take on a revolving credit line is when you don’t need it.”

The second panel focused on addressing challenges in filling manufacturing positions and highlighted a new initiative to address these shortfalls. One thing that Jabil, Cobham, and Vander-Bend have in common is that they are participating in a Sector Partnerships in Manufacturing initiative. This initiative is intended to bridge different sectors in addressing the talent shortage in manufacturing by raising awareness and interest to youth while also creating common curriculum and skills standards for assessment and training.

“We’ve got to raise the expectation, raise the profile, and drive the next generation of workforce to the companies themselves,” said John Melville of Collaborative Economics, who is coordinating the Sector Partnerships initiative. Greg Biggs of Vander-Bend put it more bluntly: “I’m a business development guy, so I should be focusing on selling and not HR. But my ability to keep adding customers is limited by the number of new employees I can take on. We have 40 vacancies for machinists that we need to fill. These jobs pay six figures. It should be a no-brainer for many people, but we need to get the word out.”

The event ended with an announcement that Bank of the West would be sponsoring the Roundtable in 2018, allowing for greater events moving forward.

About the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Roundtable

Now in its sixth year, SVMR continues to be an open platform for networking, idea sharing and partnership in the Valley’s manufacturing and R&D ecosystem. A collaboration between the Cities of San Jose, Fremont, Santa Clara and Morgan Hill, the Roundtable brings together industry, non-profits and government in support of manufacturing.

About the Panelists

Kevin Richard Andersen – President, CEO and Founder – NPI Solutions, Inc.

Kevin Andersen is President, CEO and Founder of NPI Solutions, Inc., which provides contract design engineering, prototype and manufacturing solutions to leading-edge high-tech OEM companies. He has more than 35 years of experience and is an expert in new-product introduction from concept to feasibility.

Under his management, NPI has flourished amid unprecedented economic challenges. In addition, he has successfully expanded NPI Solutions’ footprint to include wholly owned companies in Singapore and China.

Itamar Frankenthal, owner and CEO, Rose Batteries

Itamar Frankenthal is the owner and CEO of Rose Batteries, Silicon Valley’s leading manufacturer of custom batteries. Itamar provides Silicon Valley’s most exciting companies with expert battery engineering advice and custom battery pack manufacturing at Rose’s San Jose manufacturing facility.

Recently, he led Rose in the acquisition of Energy Sales, a Sunnyvale-based battery pack manufacturer. Combined, the businesses ship over half a million batteries a year.

He is also the Managing Director of New Concord Capital, a private investment fund that specializes in helping baby boomers sell their business and transition to retirement. He is also a professor at San Jose State University’s Masters of Engineering in Batteries Technology program.

Anna Zuo, Senior Vice President and Business Banking Regional Manager at Bank of the West

Anna Zuo manages Bank of the West’s Business Banking for the San Francisco and Silicon Valley Region. Prior to joining Bank of the West in 2013, she was at Wells Fargo Bank. She served as Vice President and Team Lead for the Business Banking and Commercial Lending Group in San Francisco from 2002 through 2010. She also served as Director and Head of the Financial Institution Group for Wells Fargo Bank in Shanghai.

David Wahl, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of Jabil’s Digital Office

David Wahl has over 20 years of experience in managing a diverse set of P&Ls in a multi-national environment, with some business units exceeding $2 billion. Currently, he is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Jabil’s Digital Office. As part of Jabil’s ongoing commitment to innovation, breakthrough ideas, and manufacturing technology leadership, he created Jabil’s award winning Blue Sky Center in San Jose. With a mission-critical mandate, he is transforming Jabil into to a proactive and digital innovative solution provider.

Alan Takahashi, Vice President and General Manager, Cobham

Alan Takahashi is the Vice President for the Guided Munitions Product Line in the Microelectronics Business Unit at Cobham. In this role, he is responsible for growth and profitability of this product line, which counts as customers Raytheon, Orbital ATK, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. In addition, he is also the site lead for the Cobham San Jose site, which manufactures complex RF subsystems and components for defense applications.

Greg Biggs, Director of Sales & Customer service for Vander-Bend Manufacturing

Vander-Bend Manufacturing is a large precision metals fabricator offering sheet-metal, machining, wire & harness, and contract manufacturing. Greg started his career at Vander-Bend as a teenager riding his bike to the first shop with just five employees. After graduating from Arizona State University, he returned to Vander-Bend 25 years ago and has held positions in planning, program management, and sales. Today he oversees sales, business development, estimating, and program management for Vander-Bend. Vander-Bend has grown to 500 employees and $100 million in annual revenue.

John Melville, CEO of Collaborative Economics

John Melville is the co-lead of the Next Generation Sector Partnerships national network. Over the past 30 years, he has worked with public and private leaders in more than 50 communities across the U.S. and abroad, helping them launch concrete partnerships to create improvements in workforce development, economic development, regional innovation, and quality of life. He co-founded Collaborative Economics in July 1993 after a decade as a senior policy analyst with SRI International’s Center for Economic Competitiveness. He holds a B.A. with honors in Political Science from Stanford University, and has co-authored two books on civic entrepreneurship.