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Gemfire Reopens Its Doors

Craig Matsumoto
11/24/2008

Optical components vendor Gemfire Corp. is back in business, as CEO Rick Tompane says the company is restarting all three of its fabs.

Gemfire shut down on Nov. 5, leading to some outcry in the local press -- particularly in Livingston, Scotland, where 250 workers appeared to have lost their jobs. (See Gemfire Burning?) Tompane would later tell some media that the shutdown was a temporary move; he's now explaining that it had to do with customers that were shaken by the recent economic crisis.

"When the market collapsed, there was a liquidity problem in the larger market, so a lot of customers were trying to reassess what they wanted to do," Tompane tells Light Reading. Some wanted to cancel orders; others tried to push out payments.

But Gemfire, at least to hear Tompane tell it, is a single source to a lot of those customers, and with others, it holds a majority share for the types of components it's selling. Tompane spent the past two and a half weeks convincing some of those customers not to cancel and not to delay payments.

It's worked well enough that Gemfire is ready to restart its facilities in Livingston; Fremont, Calif.; and the former Covega facility in Jessup, Md. (See Gemfire, Covega Merge.)

"We called back a crew to get started. Because it's the week of Thanksgiving, we're taking advantage of that to get a partial start, so there's a partial staff back to get the fab up and running," Tompane says.

Asked whether Gemfire intends to bring its staff back to full levels, Tompane says, "We're going through the list to find out who's available, and determining the scope of what we're going to do."

The whole affair has resulted in some press for Jim Levine, Livingston's Member of Parliament. Tompane says Levine "has been very supportive," adding that Gemfire has "been working with the Scottish government to possibly get some funding."

Gemfire's latest round of funding came about a year ago, to the tune of $37 million. (See Gemfire Lights Up $37M.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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