Oceanside’s shady days as a wild jarhead romper room are long gone. Residential land values continue to bound upward. Its commercial profile flourishes with the soon-to-be-announced specifics of the new "pier hotel" by developer SD Malkin. Hobby Lobby and WinCo picked Oceanside for their two newest stores and Escondido’s Orfilia Winery is opening an Oceanside outpost. A new whiskey distillery on Coast Highway is under construction where Joe’s Credit Furniture used to be.
But bad news just hit Oceanside in one key sector: industrial production. Oceanside’s second largest private sector employer of full-time employees, TE Connectivity, has notified its 360 employees it is leaving Oceanside and closing its 172,305-square-foot facility which sits on 31 acres bounded by Highway 76 and the San Luis Rey River.
The 50-year-old plant creates parts for the defense, aerospace and marine industries. It was long a privately-held business known as Deutsch Company before it was taken over by TE in 2012.
A TE Connectivity company spokesman passed on a news release: “As a result of TE Connectivity’s ongoing evaluation of its operations, the company expects to end production at our Oceanside, California facility by September 2020. Product manufacturing will be migrating to other existing TE Connectivity locations beginning in February 2019…This is in no way a reflection on the collective performance of our Oceanside employees.”
TE Connectivity employees say they understand that its assembly floor and machinist operations will be moved to the TE Mexican plants in Tecate and Hermasillo. “This is not all due to Trump, but everyone here knows the new tariffs on steel and aluminum did not help this place stay open,” says one employee who did not want to be identified. He said about two-thirds of TE Connectivity employees are factory or warehouse workers. The employee says there are no plans to close the TE Connectivity plant in nearby Hemet.
TE Connectivity says it has 78,000 employees worldwide and a fiscal year 2018 income of $13.9 billion. Yet the Switzerland-based company was not known to be well-connected to other local Oceanside businesses or the community at large. It was not a member of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.
“It is a shame,” says Tracey Bohlen, Oceanside’s economic development manager about TE Connectivity’s exit. “But it was really hard to find a person to talk to over there.” Pharmaceutical manufacturer Genentech remains Oceanside’s largest private enterprise employer. Oceanside’s industrial portfolio also includes Nitto Denko, Hydranautics, Gilead Science, Magnaflow and Coca-Cola.
Mayor Peter Weiss says he is not happy to see TE Connectivity leave. “I used to work with Alex Deutsch,” he said of the late namesake/founder of the Deutsch Company. “The family still owns property near there.” Saying it is important for his city to have a healthy mix of both industrial and retail business, Weiss says he suspects there will be plenty of demand for that space once it becomes available. “A couple of years ago a company from Hawaii wanted to move near there and build a wave park with two hotels,” says Weiss. “There are some companies on Industry Street that need a new place to move to. This may help them with that.”
Weiss says his city has yet to receive the official notice from TE Connectivity that it is closing its local facilities.
TE Connectivity says it will provide severance pay and will help employees find new employment. “Some of us won’t have any trouble finding work, but the older people who have worked on the assembly line for 30 years…what are they going to do?” asks one employee.
Outsiders are not allowed onto many parts of the TE Connectivity Oceanside campus. Some of its workers must get International Trade and Arms Regulation security clearance.
One longtime local wonders if any of the TE Connectivity property may be contaminated. “I know Deutsch used to do a lot of metal plating back in the day,” she said. In the 60s and 70s Oceanside’s San Luis Rey valley was home to a number of small factories including Swan Electronic, Acdc Electronics, Triplett, and Deutsch Company.