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Recession Ready? Interview with Michael Bevins

In a series of articles entitled “Recession Ready?”, The Urban Country is interviewing people around the world who are affected by the recession to understand how different people are coping. For a complete list of interviews, choose the “Recession Interviews” category on the right navigation.

MikeBevins2Mike Bevins lives in beautiful Huntington Beach, California, just outside of Los Angeles. He has been working in the semiconductor manufacturing industry for close to two decades. The Urban Country interviewed Mr. Bevins to find out how business in California has been affected by the economy.

What is your job title and role?

My employer is a distributor for quality control monitoring equipment used in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. We have exclusive distribution rights for products from Germany, France, and Japan. We also conceive ideas that we subcontract to local companies to design and manufacture under our name. We represent 7 companies and approximately 50 different products (including our own). My responsibility is marketing, sales, installation, training, and service for the products from two German companies and two of our older products. In addition – as the resident engineer – I am deeply involved in the concept, design, and manufacturing of our own products (working with our subcontractors). And most recently, I’m also our webmaster.

How long have you been in this position?

I was hired in June 1992.

What changes have you noticed in the last year as a result of the shrinking economy?

Equipment purchasing budgets have disappeared. All our existing customers and many potential ones are not spending.

Has globalization had an effect on your business?

Globalization has killed the semiconductor manufacturing industry in the US. Prior to the dot-com bust, companies such as Motorola, Texas Instruments, AMD, etc… manufactured a high percentage of their products in the US. Since then they have either moved to their plants to Asia (initially Singapore and Malaysia, then Taiwan, and most recently China) or have subcontracted the production to Asia foundries. This has significantly reduced our customer base. Since our company started in 1987 we’ve enjoyed a minimum 10% growth rate per year, until the onslaught of the dot-com bust. Since then we’re reduced our staff by half and we’ve either broke even or run a deficit since.

What measures has you company taken in order to stay afloat in the current economy?

Starting March 15 all employees will take a 30% cut in hours/pay. We’ve reduced our travel budgets, the number of trade shows we attended (reduced the size of our booth and displayed equipment), and a freeze on all office equipment and supplies. Most importantly we are branching into other industries. The first is LED Lighting: home lighting, interior, exterior, industrial. We’ve setup a separate company and hired a full-time sales person (he works strictly on commissions). The second is a related product that improves the uniform-ness of LED illumination.

How are your co-workers handling the uncertainty with their jobs and future?

We are all tightening our personal fiscal belts. We’ve known for several months this pay cut was coming so we’ve had time to prepare. We’ve been assured that we should be able to continue for another year, so I don’t believe anybody is actively looking for other employment. Basically, for the time being, we’ve given up on the semiconductor business and focusing all our attention on these new products.

If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do to pass the time?

Probably stay put in Los Angeles, spend more time with my family,  pursue my hobbies, find some new ones, and travel when ever possible.