With a surprising surge in demand, 'old tech' computing company to open light manufacturing facility in Elk Grove

During the COVID-19 pandemic, among the many changes in the American lifestyle has been a surge in online shopping and delivery of groceries...

During the COVID-19 pandemic, among the many changes in the American lifestyle has been a surge in online shopping and delivery of groceries. Many of these companies benefitted from the pandemic and now have market values in the billions of dollars.

While there have been losers and some beneficiaries in the once-a-century event, there have been less visible companies benefitting from the pandemic. One category best classified as retro computing technology has seen a surge in interest.

According to the engineering society called Saving Engineering Technology, or SET, in the last 12 months, there has been a surge in the use, sale, and manufacturing of slide rules. With demand strong for the hard-to-obtain computing device, the president of SET, Cormac McCarthy, PE, MBA, PMP, who resides in Elk Grove's Laguna West neighborhood, said the group obtained a manufacturing license for their non-profit group, which funds architectural scholarships.

"For a variety of reasons, there is interest in our instruction manuals, and videos on how to use a slide rule are surging in the last year," McCarthy said. "Along with that interest, we sold what slide rules we have on hand."

To accommodate the demand for the calculating devices, which McCarthy said is about 2,000,000 units annually worldwide, SET has obtained a manufacturing license from Japan-based The Concise Company.  

"We'll sell them for $15 each, so if we capture any portion of this global market, we are going to have a huge payday," McCarthy said.

A light manufacturing process that primarily engraves high-density plastic, SET will start producing the devices in Elk Grove and create 86 new jobs. McCarthy said they will need at least 35,000 square feet of light manufacturing space and is working with leasing agents as well as Elk Grove's economic development department officials. 

McCarthy said SET decided to pursue Elk Grove, given its eagerness to locate high-tech manufacturers like NRC. He noted the city's economic development director Darrell Doan's presentation before the Elk Grove City Council in 2018 that he would work to land the next Apple or Google.  

"Sure, we aren't Apple, Netflix, Google, or Hewlett Packard, but we are real, not some company who are not really coming," McCarthy said. "Demand for our product is real so we won't start in some grease monkey garage like Doan romanticized."

McCarthy would not disclose if SET would be eligible for incentives but noted the charitable group had enlisted an unidentified former Elk Grove elected official who will represent their interests. That individual will also connect them with a newly formed charter school opening in Elk Grove for sponsoring scholarships  - see related story here. 

"Our lobbyists promised us we would receive automatic city approval for our project and that we would get 'laser-focused' incentives from the city," McCarthy stated. "We are not afraid of being set up for failure, we is, after all, SET, and we is all highly-educated engineers an is more smarter than most people." 

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