I was glad to hear that Huntington Labs of Mountain View announced on Thursday that it was coming here – swimming against a tide. I expect them to expand further.
I worked hard to sleuth out this story last fall as editor/writer/chief bottle washer at The Union (so it’s disappointing that KNCO got the scoop on Thursday’s news).
When The Union had an Editor, it was his/her job to make sure the staff kept track of stories like this that were in the works – called a “tickler” file. So it goes in the era of “big oven” journalism, driven by cost cutting where staffs are stretched thin. It’s bad for business in the long term, however: When the product isn’t “unique” anymore, readers vanish.
Here’s how I got wind of the Huntington Labs story last fall: Gil Mathew of the county Economic Resource Council told the Board of Supervisors in a public meeting that a Mountain View firm that makes high-tech valves might be coming here. No more details were offered.
I did some digging, including combing a long list of Mountain View tech companies and put in a call to the economic development manager for the Bay Area city (also home to Google). I also made a call to a competitor and bingo: The firm was identified.
I phoned the owner, and he was surprised. Then he got a bit hot and made some legal threats if I published the details.
(This happens a lot in a small town: I’ll never forget how hot a co-owner of the Holbrooke Hotel got when I sleuthed out the hotel was up for sale. He shouted some not-so-nice words. I played the phone message for my wife one night. Still, I took the high road: We organized a family get-together at the hotel since. The customer service was better this time.)
In the case of Huntington Labs, I decided just to identify the company as “a 40-year-old firm that makes high-tech valves, hardware and other equipment.”
The economic-development person in Mountain View called me after the story ran, eager to “retain” the unnamed firm, but I wouldn’t divulge the name. I also took some well-deserved heat from readers for being cagey.
In my mind, I didn’t want to scuttle the deal, but I didn’t want to sit on the story either: Residents have a right to know what’s going on.
I later ran into a rep of Huntington Labs at a county Economic Resource Council bus tour. He apologized for the outburst.
In small towns, feathers get ruffled easily when you do some digging. It’s a balancing act for sure. But you could write a book about it: funny stories to tell. Once the ex-wife of one of the area’s high-ranking elected/appointed officials called to vent about her ex-husband. Help!
In the case of Huntington Labs, I’m glad the outcome was a positive one: A “win-win.”
Now if we can just keep Thomson Grass Valley and others from packing up, taking the high-paying jobs with them. We mostly keep getting older.
I often wonder whether our family should just open a medical supply business here and call it a day.