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  • Featured Business of the Month: The Okonite Company

    The Okonite Company was our featured manufacturing business for January 2022! Here’s some additional information about the business.

    Provide a brief description of the business:
    The Okonite Company was founded in 1878 making it one of the original insulators of electrical wire and cable in the United States.  Okonite serves a multitude of industry markets including Electric Utility, Oil & Gas, Chemical, Military bases, Railroad, and Transit.

    When was the business formed?
    The Okonite Company was founded in New York in 1878.  In 1966, Okonite purchased 50 acres of Santa Maria Airport industrial park property for $253,000 with plans to build a factory that would supply PG&E and Southern California Edison as well as other utilities and buyers in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.  The $10 million 269,160 square foot plant built by the Bechtel Corporation was formally dedicated in May, 1968 and initially employed about 200 people. 

    How has the business grown?
    Since its opening in 1968, the plant has undergone continual modernization and expansion projects, which have added capacity as well as improved manufacturing efficiencies.  Today, the 565,106 square foot Santa Maria plant is more than double its original size and continues to serve major utilities and industrial customers all throughout the country.

    Current number of employees:
    200

    Describe how your business has innovated their product/service:
    Since its founding, one of the cornerstones of The Okonite Company's philosophy has been to offer its customers the highest quality, best performing ingredients for cable insulations and jackets, utilizing the most up-to-date materials available.  This uncompromising commitment to quality and product performance has been heightened in recent years by major capital investments in improved manufacturing and compounding facilities.

    Describe how your business has responded to periods of adversity:
    Planning for the future has been a hallmark of The Okonite Company for over 140 years.  Through the many business cycles endured, Okonite never wavered from its long range plan of continued expansion and investment for the future.  In the turmoil and change which have characterized the wire and cable industry, Okonite has emerged as the largest and most enduring independent manufacturer of high quality power and control cables - to which can be added the distinction of being truly American owned and operated, with employees who have a unique and special interest in the company through our ESOP form of ownership.
    Like many other manufacturers, Okonite recently had to adjust to increased customer demands while navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.  By closely monitoring and quickly implementing recommendations from the CDC and Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Okonite was able to continue operating our business safely.  Okonite also encouraged employees to get vaccinated by providing monetary incentives, and we are pleased to announce that over 90% of our workforce is fully-vaccinated.

    Describe how your business contributes to the overall well-being of the community (contributions of time, money or resources, service and volunteer activity, leadership roles, membership in groups/boards/committees, etc.):

    • Over $2 million spent in the last year supporting businesses in Santa Maria.
    • Annual donations to a list of local charitable organizations.
    • Participating in the Chamber’s Leadership Santa Maria Valley program offering tours and explaining Okonite’s contributions to our local economy.
    • Participating in city organized student & industry collaborations, networking with high school and college students.
    • Providing opportunities to expose Allan Hancock College and Cal Poly students to a heavy manufacturing environment through plant tours, student projects, and paid internships.
    • Managers serving as guest speakers for manufacturing-related courses at Allan Hancock.
    • Participated as industry partners in Allan Hancock College’s Workforce Readiness Committee.
    Please add any additional information you would like us to include when highlighting your business:
    Okonite has been operating in Santa Maria for over 53 years and we look forward to many more decades in this community.  Over the next decade, Okonite will be an integral supplier for electric utility companies planning to improve the reliability and safety of their grids by converting existing overhead power distribution systems to underground distribution systems.

    The Monthly Featured Business program is done in partnership with the City of Santa Maria and aims to gives recognition to businesses who have been in the community for a significant amount of time, and/or providing unique or significant contributions to our community. The focus for 12 months, beginning in December 2021 is on major manufacturers and women-owned businesses in the City. To nominate a business or ask about the program, contact Molly Schiff at the Chamber at molly@santamaria.com.