MOUND HOUSE - Gerd Poppinga had to make the hardest decision to ever confront a business owner.
Poppinga, 59, started his business in 1977 in Sonoma, Calif., but moved it to Mound House recently for economic reasons. About half of his 35 employees decided to also make the move. So in November 2003, the multimillion-dollar equipment essential to Vineburg Machining Inc.'s business was transported on 14 semi-trucks to Northern Nevada.
Poppinga was born in Germany, but arrived in California just in time to be drafted into the Vietnam War, where he served from 1966 to 1968. Soon after returning, he married a Panamanian woman named Ismenia, and they have two children. His son, Gerd Jr., also works at Vineburg Machining.
"We used to have 90 employees in 2000, but due to the recession, our business was slowly going down in the number of employees," he said. "We dropped to 35 employees at the end of 2002-2003."
Poppinga said the semi-conductor industry was in decline so he decided to downsize. His biggest customer was going into a redesign; other customers were going overseas.
Poppinga already owned a house in Dayton, so this area became his first choice.
"When I had to make the decision, I looked at the business climate in Nevada and its infrastructure. Our type of business relies on raw materials from the Bay area and Southern California. I found that Mound House had a good support line."
His 13,000-square-foot shop is broken into two parts, but it all sounds the same: the grinding cacophony of industry. One half contains about $1.1 million in computer-operated machines. These digital machines are for the precise pieces, but they have a short lifetime and need diligent maintenance.
The other half of the shop is dominated by 13 mass-producing machines, each worth from $50,000 to $150,000. These machines are for producing high volumes. Poppinga said they're all American-made and will last for decades.
Although he isn't employing the same number of people that he had before the recession, 25 machinists work in the machine shop, Poppinga said he is establishing bonds with other industry in Carson City.
Vineburg is a contract shop that doesn't make any of its own products. It has contracts to make such things as door locks, parts for fire pokers, orthopedic devices, animal feeders and racing cars. The products are shipped to Mexico, Colorado, California and Nevada.
"I like to work with the engineers from various companies that we do work for. They come to us with a specialized process. They want to take a new design to market, and they come to us to make it as low-cost as possible."
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.