There comes a time when a business owner has to weigh loyalties against the bottom line.
For CMC Rescue founder Jim Frank and CEO Rich Phillips, that time came late last year, when a decision of where to relocate the growing rescue equipment manufacturing business presented two options: pay more money to stay in Goleta, where the 34-year-old business was founded, or move 20 miles east to Carpinteria.
Turns out, Frank and Phillips are loyal men.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Phillips said of choosing to remain in Goleta. “This has been our home. We’re committed to becoming more visible in the community.”
As a result, the company’s 70 employees — most of whom live in Goleta — won’t have to commute very far when CMC Rescue moves into its larger facility at 6740 Cortona Drive in August.
The business also won’t be moving from the community where Frank got his first taste of rescue equipment years ago during a career fair at San Marcos High School. After he was introduced to the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Team, it wasn’t long before he felt compelled to join the all-volunteer branch of the Sheriff’s Department.
Frank took a special interest in the recreational rock-climbing gear law enforcement used to conduct rescues, especially the harness.
“That was the spark that made the company,” Phillips said.
CMC Rescue was founded in Frank’s Santa Barbara garage. He found specialty equipment to safely and successfully save lives and sold it for a few years before the company began manufacturing its own certified harnesses and accessory equipment in 1982. That same year, the company established an academy to teach the professionals who would be using its products.
All the while, Frank kept Phillips, his former college roommate, in the business loop. The two had grown close when studying engineering together at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Phillips, who was working at a large company in San Diego, was eventually lured to Frank’s company because he liked its mission. He was given the CEO title in 2009.
“The purpose of the business was to help people, law enforcement,” Phillips explained. “We couldn’t get the quality using outside companies. You’re literally trusting your life to it. Everything we sell has to be perfect. There is an emotional component to a harness. The rest of the world trusts us.”
Frank recently rattled off a long list of local law-enforcement agencies that use CMC Rescue equipment, including the search and rescue team for whom he still volunteers. The company, which is a brand name in China and Japan, even has an app with a rescue reference guide book.
The equipment is used to “supply America’s heroes” and not for the regular consumer, Frank said, which might explain why few locals know about the business.
CMC Rescue is hoping to change that by reaching out to the community and by ensuring its longevity. Both say the company’s future became secure last year when CMC Rescue became completely employee-owned.
“We really believe that we’re the kind of company Goleta wants,” Frank said. “That’s good for the community.”