For the East Bay economy, providing support and assistance to the region’s manufacturing sector– which has seen more than 12,000 jobs lost during the pandemic —is critical. On September 30, 2020, just in time for National Manufacturing Day, East Bay EDA and Manex hosted panel of East Bay manufacturing executives to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges and opportunities for the region’s manufacturing sector. Our “Made in the East Bay” webinar featured Dr. Bassam El-Fahmawi, CEO of Mawi DNA Technologies; Mark Morrissey, VP of Engineering and Products for Unigen Corporation; PJ Quesada, VP of Ramar Foods; and Brian Paper, COO of Bay Area Circuits.

For Bay Area Circuits, which manufactures printed circuit boards in Fremont, being able to navigate workplace health and safety has proven to be the biggest challenge, particularly as a small to mid-size firm without a dedicated department. “The more challenging aspect is, what happens if somebody gets sick, what are our responsibilities there, and those are things that fortunately we haven’t had to deal with yet.” Mr. Paper said.

Ramar Foods is a third-generation family-owned and operated specialty food manufacturer located in Pittsburg, and the pandemic had a profound impact on their company’s communications with their workforce. “There is a special resiliency, I think, to workers in the East Bay,” and “our goal was to not lay anybody off, and for our manufacturing business we were able to do that… this is not the story you typically hear,” said Mr. Quesada.

Hayward-based Mawi DNA Technologies has repurposed one of its core technologies for biological sample collection for FDA-issued emergency use authorizations in the global fight against COVID-19. Locally, Dr. El-Fahmawi worked with local government and industry to facilitate the collaboration that resulted in one of the first drive-through testing facilities in the region. “Just putting the dots together from the government and municipalities,” is important.

Unigen Corporation is a contract manufacturer serving multiple industries from its location in Newark. The company is following a trend of doing more with less, with efficiencies speeding up efforts toward greater automation. “The lesson learned was how to be more efficient, how to be more versatile with your workforce, and how to apply that to a scalable future.”

East Bay EDA is part of California’s Manufacturing Network, a statewide collaboration that is providing outreach and support to small and mid-sized manufacturers so that they survive, recover, and thrive. Led by California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC), through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Emergency Assistance Program (NEAP) (funded by the CARES Act Stimulus Program), East Bay EDA is reaching out to small and mid-size manufacturers to address their unique challenges and provide immediate solutions.

Click here for more information on East Bay EDA’s COVID-19 response for manufacturers.