Ocean Equipment Chief Says Lifestyle Choice Helped Sway Decision
Central Oregon’s eclectic mix of innovative businesses caught a new wave recently with a premier marine equipment company navigating its way from California.
Ocean Equipment – a company that produces mounting solutions for marine electronics, provides factory installed electronics for boat builders and operates as an exclusive North American distributor – has relocated to a 10,000 square foot lease space on Carmen Loop in Bend’s south east industrial area, after operating out of Irvine, California since 1991.
The business is now officially operating out of Central Oregon, said company president and founder Rob Walsh, who actually moved his primary residence to Bend with his wife and daughter several years ago.
“Half of what we do will pass through this facility,” said Walsh. “We have another office in Largo, Florida that supports our Factory Installed Electronics that we provide for Catalina Yachts, a prominent Sailboat Builder.
“We also drop ship containers of our product from Taiwan to larger customers like West Marine, which is the largest retailer in the boating industry.”
Ocean Equipment is a marketing and distribution company that both imports and exports. They have world-wide distribution channels for the products they produce domestically and import from Taiwan and China.
They also operate as an exclusive North American distributor for boating product lines from countries like Sweden, New Zealand, UK and other European countries, as well as providing factory installed electronics for Catalina Yachts.
Ocean Equipment distributes its ‘NavPod’ and ‘HoseCoil’ product lines to over 25 countries world-wide. NavPod is a mounting system for marine electronics, while HoseCoil is a line of washdown systems specifically designed for boats.
“We are mostly in the Marine Electronics business,” said Walsh. “We also distribute a line of performance yacht racing instrumentation.
“I admit we are a bit eclectic – the boating industry is a small industry and we have found different opportunities that have pulled us in different direction over our 20 years.
“The synergy is the fact that larger distributors and retailers are very much into vendor consolidation – they would rather buy more from a less number of vendors.
“This has worked to our benefit. We have all the necessary shipping standards, EDI (Electronic Data Integration) and business systems like MAS90 that allow us to tie customer forecasts into our MRP purchasing systems.”
Walsh said moving his company to Bend was as much of a personal decision as a business one, as he and his family have lived in Bend for the past six years, adding, “My daughter was ready to start first grade and after 12 years in Newport Beach, it was time to find a new place to relocate the family and time to move to a mountain town from the beach, and the family settled here in 2006.
“It’s the geography that brought us here and it’s the people we’ve met that keeps us here. My wife and I really have enjoyed our new-found home. I’m responsible for about a dozen other people relocating to Bend!
“When I first came and visited Bend, it was always my intention to relocate my business. I was anxious to gather some facts about the cost of doing business in California vs. Oregon.
“I’ve always heard how expensive it was to do business in California but that’s the only state I’ve operated my business in so I really didn’t know any different.
“In my effort to begin this comparison, I somehow found EDCO. I think Roger Lee (EDCO Executive Director) may have been one the first people I met.
“He handed me a big spiral bound binder with all kind of facts about Bend and doing business in Bend. He drove me around and gave me the whole tour. He did a great job but I have to admit I was an easy sell.
“I crunched some business numbers on a friend’s kitchen table that we took from the EDCO binder and realized this move could be financially beneficial for my business.
“Roger invited me to several business networking events and I had the opportunity to meet with other business owners who have moved their business from California to Bend. It was reassuring to hear these success stories. I have to put a plug in for EDCO because they were a great asset for me.
“I was really ready for a move to a mountain town as well as find a different place to raise my daughter. Even if the business numbers were ‘all things equal’ Bend had so many other attractions, I was ready to make the move.
“Once I showed my wife a new northwest lodge style home in a westside neighborhood that we could purchase, she was sold. Within a year we made the move and the family was settled in but I found it more challenging to actually get the business moved.
“At Ocean Equipment we were very busy, steadily growing but getting more complicated. We knew we needed to dramatically simplify the business if I had a chance of moving it.
“But with each passing year the chance of accomplishing this move lessened. We even considered moving back if we aren’t able to relocate the business. Then the recession came around and we were forced to simplify the business.
“Fortunately we were able to reduce overhead accordingly to align with our drop in sales. Once things steadied out for us, we now realized I could actually move this business. I admit it has taken a lot longer to make this move than I’ve every thought, but we are finally here.
“I had a trucking company come in a quote the move. He figured he could probably get everything done in one semi truck. It ended up taking five!”
Walsh said Ocean Equipment was operating out of a 20,000 square foot building he owns in Irvine and he also needed to get his portion of the space leased out before we could make the move, which “took a while.”
He added, “Our plan for Bend is to efficiently operate and better implement our business plan now that I can be more hands-on.
“We didn’t relocate any of our Irvine employees and have hired six new people so far. It is a refreshing change to have a new staff with new energy. It was easier to start with a clean slate and decide really what positions we needed rather then fill in open positions.
“I’ve found some really good people through networking with some business contacts I’ve met through EDCO and then we ran ads in craigslist.
“I have found that the people in Bend are totally committed to being in Bend. I am seeing that they are committed to their job because this affords a living here.
“We all know it’s a great place to live and raise a family and we are all committed to achieve our mutual personal goals through a commitment to the business that fuels this lifestyle. It’s a good feeling and I’m excited to finally get my business located to a place I’m personally committed to.“
Walsh said Ocean Equipment also helps other overseas companies set up proper distribution channels and build their brand in the US.