Ealing heads home

After spending more than eight years in the U.S., optics and laser accessories manufacturer/marketer Ealing Catalog is returning to the U.K., where it was founded in 1847. By the end of the first quarter, the company will have moved its headquarters from Rocklin, CA, to St. Asaph, Wales, where it recently opened a full manufacturing facility. It will retain a facility in Rocklin, however, that will serve as its sales and distribution center for the U.S. and Asia.

Ealing moved to the U.S. in 1997 after Santa Clara, CA-based laser manufacturer Coherent acquired it. But five years later, following the downturn of the telecom market, Coherent sold Ealing to Bob Basore, Ealing’s president, and members of London-based venture capital firm Thompson Clive.

Eye on expansion

Ealing will use the Wales location as a springboard to the Continent, because “you need to have a European presence to play in Europe,” says Basore. Ealing hired distributors (as sales reps without long-term contracts are called in the European Union) in Germany and France in 2004; Basore expects to add six to eight more this year. He also intends to increase the size of Ealing’s full-time staff from 12 to roughly 25 by June, part of the company’s effort to grow sales from $5 million to $20 million during the next few years.

The move to Wales makes such expansion efforts more affordable, Basore says. “There is certainly a lot of undeveloped land in California, but it’s only available at very high costs,” he explains. “Ultimately, though, the move has a lot more to do with how Wales works with low-interest loans and grants and how our new facility there offers access to capital investors.”

The new facility is in an industrial park that houses 35 other optics companies, and it’s close to several research facilities, which will help with product development. To further enable growth, Ealing aims to focus on proprietary products rather than buying goods from an outside vendor, Basore says. To that end, Ealing will be working with Optic Technium and the University of Wales at Bangor on further new product developments in the future.

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