CORONA, CALIF. — A city on the metropolitan outskirts of Los Angeles has become a Southern Califonia plastics processing destination.
More than two dozen companies process resins, make molds or recycle plastics in burgeoning Corona, and the city remains hospitable to more growth despite a tightening of available land and labor resources.
``When owners of plastics companies consider expanding or moving, almost everyone east of the city of Los Angeles considers Corona as a new location,'' said Fritz Strehlow, managing director of Mentor Group, a La Palma, Calif., mergers and acquisitions firm.
``Corona has become a little bit of a hotbed'' because of land values and proximity ``to the major markets of Los Angeles and Orange County,'' said Dan O'Neal, head of Progressive Equipment Sales, a Corona-based manufacturers' representative.
In August, a consultant's 83-page, city-commissioned report attributed the growth to location, timing and attitude and said 59 medium-sized firms have migrated to, or expanded in, Corona since 1994. Corona has a population of about 111,500, up 46.8 percent since 1990.
Corona touts commercial and residential real estate prices lower than those in Orange County. Real estate brokers say the differences, however, are narrowing on industrial leasing rates. And, as the inventory of vacant land shrinks, Corona is annexing areas.
One start-up injection molder, which has not been identified publicly, is outfitting a 40,000-square-foot Corona building for eight presses to be operational in 1999's first quarter. The firm is planning for 30 machines eventually.
A recent arrival, Precise Plastic Products Inc., moved to Corona when its rent in Fullerton, Calif., was greatly increased, said General Manager Roxanne Abdi.
Precise Plastic bought a site, built a 40,000-square-foot facility and moved in in August. Precise Plastic employs 50 and operates 16 injection molding presses with 40-610 tons of clamping force, one compression press and one transfer press. Close-tolerance aerospace impellers and components account for one-half of the business, and medical, electronics and housewares for the remainder.
Another August arrival was Talco Plastics Inc.'s post-industrial recycling operation from Whittier, Calif.
Corona's largest custom injection molder, AMA Plastics Inc., moved into a 92,000-square-foot facility from its four Anaheim, Calif., buildings in 1995. The 27-year-old firm relocated 29 presses to Corona and now operates 34 with clamping forces of 35-400 tons. Consumer electronics, medical and industrial products are AMA's key markets. In Corona, AMA employs 200, including 30 in mold-making operations.
Structural foam processor Preproduction Plastics Inc. looked at several sites in Riverside County in Southern California and as far north as Sparks, Nev., during a 1994 site search, said Koby Loosen, Preproduction vice president, at the plant. He and his father, Ron, are co-owners of the business, established in 1980.
Preproduction was leasing 20,000 square feet in three Los Alamitos, Calif., buildings and gained efficiency by consolidating into 45,000 square feet in Corona.
``People in Riverside were offering us some enterprise zones, and Perris offered land in exchange for us building a facility there,'' Loosen said. Discussions with Corona occurred in the wake of injection molder Cimco Inc.'s acrimonious exit. Cimco derided Corona's business posture, but Corona said Cimco was unwilling to live within the city's rules.
Preproduction found Corona ``pro-business and pro-opportunity'' Loosen said. ``The difference was the drive.''
Many Preproduction factory workers lived in Orange County but eventually relocated to less-expensive Riverside County, ``exactly what the people in Corona were counting on,'' Loosen said.
Preproduction employs 100 and produces short runs of large medical and electronic enclosures and housings, mostly using polyethylene, polycarbonate and polyphenylene oxide resins on its eight Battenfeld structural foam presses and one HPM injection molding unit.
Custom injection molder Campbell Plastics Engineering & Manufacturing Inc. moved from Santa Ana to a leased space in Corona in 1992; in July 1997 it bought a building, said President Richard Campbell.
Now Campbell Plastics employs 60, including a few who had worked at the Santa Ana site.
Recently, Campbell Plastics added two Nissei injection molding machines, with clamping forces of 260 and 400 tons, bringing its total to 10 presses of 60-400 tons. The firm opened in 1981.
In 1993, custom injection molder SCR Molding Inc. and mold maker SC Precision Molds Inc. moved from their 3,500-square-foot plant in Fullerton to their leased, 22,000-square-foot Corona facility.
``A lot of molders move here from the Los Angeles area or Orange County,'' and ``pretty soon they will run out of qualified employees,'' said Rick McCray, SCR vice president and co-owner. ``Orange County was a hotbed of activity,'' but costs to build got out of hand.
SCR makes electrical connectors on 16 presses of 29-170 tons, including four new Van Dorns.
Carl Thompson owns the mold-making operation, formed in 1978, and is president and co-owner of SCR. The complementary operations employ 30.
Custom injection molder Accent Plastics Inc. moved from Fullerton in 1991 for ``more space, to be close to our labor base and for closer access to San Diego accounts,'' President Tom Pridonoff said. By March, Accent will occupy a fourth building after starting with one. Space will total 65,000 square feet. Accent employs 100 and molds medical and electronic components.
Precision Injection Molding Co. is buying its 6,200-square-foot building and, in early 1999, plans to acquire an adjacent 10,000-square-foot facility, said co-owner Steve Crawford. Pimco opened in 1991 in Corona, employs 15-30 and operates six presses of 90-250 tons. The firm makes optical products, including a line for post-cataract surgery, a proprietary roller-hockey floor and a container line.
Lower land and development costs prompted Fischer Mold Inc. to relocate its custom molding and mold-making operations from Anaheim in 1988. The firm employs 60 and operates 17 injection molding machines of 50-375 tons.
Not all of the processors in Corona are newcomers.
In 1942, Hendrickson Bros. began caring for the agricultural orchards of absentee owners and, in 1976, shifted to making proprietary plastic irrigation products for the agricultural market.
``We found plastics,'' said manager Don Hendrickson.
The firm has six injection presses of 35-125 tons in a 10,000-square-foot Corona facility and markets the fittings, pressure regulators and flow controls through irrigation system wholesalers.
Injection molder Jim and Ann Howard's Pacific Polylloys Inc. uses 11 presses with clamping forces up to 450 tons.
Separately, two brothers run fast-growing firms. Abraham Abdi's Merrick Engineering Inc. molds plastic hangers and storage shelves, and Eric Abdi's AmericanMaid Plastic Products Inc., formerly Advanced Plastics, molds proprietary housewares and custom closet items, paint trays and garden supplies. Each brother is a cousin of Precise's Roxanne Abdi.
The brothers Jacobson at Hoosier Plastic Fabrication Inc. focus primarily on precision plastics machining for high-technology industries, and fabricator Mark Plastics makes custom boat windows and marine windshields, mostly of acrylic.
John Monnig's Clearpack Engineering Inc. uses plastic sheet in thermoforming consumer-type packaging, and Jim Prodoti's J&S Vacuum Forming makes packaging materials.
Among firms owned by outsiders, Syroco, a unit of England's Marley plc, molds resin furniture; Mason, Mich.-based Dart Container Corp. makes products of expandable polystyrene and warehouses a huge inventory; and Bridgeport, N.J.-based National Polystyrene Recycling Co. reprocesses PS.
Corona's industrial growth will continue, said Jim Bradley, Corona's economic development director. He projected that firms will build an additional 3 million to 4 million square feet of manufacturing space on some 250 remaining vacant industrial acres in the city during 1999-2000.
``And by that time, we will have annexed 500 acres southeast of the city, mostly for manufacturing,'' Bradley said.