When Seagate pulled out of Scotts Valley in 2011, the mainstay company left large, empty buildings in its wake and the city without its largest employer.
Two years later, several of those buildings on Disc and Scotts Valley drives are once again bustling with business activity as up-and-coming companies Bay Photo and Universal Audio have officially taken up residence
‘We’d outgrown the space’
When the lease expired on Universal Audio’s former location at 1700 Green Hills Road, the audio equipment manufacturer and software design company decided the time was right to relocate to a building better suited for a growing business.
Rick Fabiano, Universal Audio’s chief financial officer, said negotiating the six-year lease, the remodeling and moving process took about a year.
The company officially began operations at 4585 Scotts Valley Drive in February.
“The lease was up, and we had outgrown the space,” he said. “We knew if we wanted to expand, we’d have to do it in another building.”
The 42,000-square-foot facility, an increase of 13,000 square feet from the previous digs, houses the company’s executive offices, a manufacturing floor for analog devices, design space for digital software programmers — and features room to expand.
Universal Audio’s 80 employees enter through a redesigned foyer, which Fabiano said was made with recycled materials. It also features artifacts from the company’s history and images of famous musicians such as Ray Charles who have used Universal Audio’s equipment over the years.
According to Universal Audio communications officer Amanda Whiting, the office had “a much older vibe” when the company took over the building, and steps were taken to install skylights to allow natural light into workspaces wherever possible.
Most of the downstairs portion of the two-story building is dedicated to the manufacture of preamplifiers, compressors and channel strips — all hand-built using materials and designs that date back to the 1950s and ’60s.
“Anything you’d find in your grandfather’s recording studio we hand-make and hand-solder,” Whiting said.
Upstairs is the area for the software designers, who create programs used onboard the company’s digital versions of the analog equipment, which are manufactured offsite.
Fabiano said that the new building’s open layout allowed for more of a team atmosphere, as the old site had every division partitioned off.
“More common space, more collaborative space — all that really helps with the efficiency of the business,” he said.
‘This is all about production’
In February, a year and a half after Bay Photo began its $10.7 million expansion and remodel project on a 17-acre site on Disc Drive, work began inside its 105,00-square-foot building.
That structure houses the growing company’s primary production and corporate headquarters, after an extensive remodel by architect David Zulim joined two Seagate-era buildings via a 9,000-square-foot addition to create one large space for photo printing and finishing.
According to Digital Operations Manager Patrick Jagger, the new headquarters is houses 200 employees and is equipped to accommodate such requests as photographic prints, press-printed products, metal prints, thin wraps, canvas gallery wraps, and fine art giclée prints, albums and books.
Inside the former Seagate buildings, where once stood rows of offices now is a wide-open floor plan — perfect for moving large machines and art pieces.
“We’re an industrial environment,” said Jagger. “This is all about production.”
Bay Photo was formerly on Delaware Street on the west side of Santa Cruz, the company was forced to rent space in the former Wrigley building. The need for more room prompted the move to Scotts Valley, Jagger said.
But the new building is not designed as a retail outlet, he said, adding that the company’s two retail locations in Santa Cruz and Soquel — as well as the only division of the company that still processes film — would remain open and were capable of handling most projects.
According to Bay Photo President Larry Abitbol, most of the work on the project was done with an eye toward supporting the local economy.
“We tried to use local companies wherever we could,” he said.
Santa Cruz-based Slatter Construction did much of the construction work, he said, and Cooper Technologies, Giant Electric and Peak Communications worked to get the buildings electrical and communications systems functioning.
Abitbol said that, with the work finally completed, he was looking forward to getting down to business
“It’s an easy commute, the people in Scotts Valley have been nice,” he said. “We’re just glad to be moved in.”
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