(Photo | Courtesy of CLS Fabrication)
In 1985, Eric and Barbara Fleming founded CLS Fabrication in their garage in Costa Mesa, California. They started by building coin-operated laundry machine security devices. Over the years, CLS added commercial and general security products, third-party sheet metal products and started its luxury Baldhead Metal Cabinet product line.
CEO Peter Fleming said his parents’ inspiration to start the company was seizing an opportunity to do a higher quality manufacturing job for the coin laundry security industry. “In the beginning, we outsourced manufacturing and as quickly as we could, we rented our first building, bought some equipment and brought manufacturing in-house. The product line grew into a nice little business, and we eventually got into third-party manufacturing as well,” Fleming said.
In 2002, they started manufacturing their cabinet product line, Baldhead Cabinets. They were installing cabinets for a client who had recently retired and moved to Bend, when a seed was planted. “The rising cost of doing business in California along with the vastly different lifestyle that Oregon offered were the main contributing factors to eventually relocating to Bend,” Fleming said.
In 2005, CLS Fabrication expanded and moved its operations to Bend. Over the years, the company holds true to its basic tenets of working hard, always striving for continual improvement and reinvesting profits in infrastructure and equipment to ensure persistent growth.
Over the years it has been in business, CLS Fabrication has made everything from Dutch Bros. tip jars to fuel cans for NASCAR and aircraft maintenance stands for Boeing and ladders for helicopter maintenance. “We also create miscellaneous parts and pieces for a variety of up-and-coming robotics companies in the San Francisco Bay Area,” he said.
Baldhead Cabinets primarily manufactures tool and storage cabinets for high-end residential garages, car condos, hangers and “toy” barns. “We have a very niche clientele, most of whom are affluent “car guys” who are building their dream garage,” he added.
Looking at what’s happening in today’s economy, Fleming said he doesn’t know if it would be possible to relocate his family’s company. “I don’t know how anyone could do it with the high costs of rent, property and wages,” he said. “Those things make it difficult to do business so finding a way to lower them would be beneficial. We were blessed to move here when we did.”
Fleming said his company faces many of the same challenges as anyone running a business, especially a business in Bend. “It’s never been cheap to live here, and it’s only getting worse,” Fleming said. “We are doing whatever we can to retain employees by increasing our wages and benefits along with rethinking our culture and doing our best to make this a place that people want to come to work every day has been at the top of our to do list. Supply chain issues have been a thing over the past year or so but fortunately in our case, it was never anything debilitating.”
Despite the challenges, Fleming takes pride in the products his companies create as well as what other manufacturers are producing. “Manufacturing is alive and well in the good old USA, and I wish there was more of it,” he said.