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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 6:13 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

North County EconAlliance Awards Recognize Innovation

Mob Armor, Allan Hancock College Promise Program in the spotlight at Solvang event

Mob Armor’s Trevor Orrick and Joel Hitchen pose with Rep. Salud Carbajal’s aide, Wendy Motta, at the EconAlliance dinner, where the firm was recognized Thursday night with the Technology Innovation Award. Click to view larger
Mob Armor’s Trevor Orrick and Joel Hitchen pose with Rep. Salud Carbajal’s aide, Wendy Motta, at the EconAlliance dinner, where the firm was recognized Thursday night with the Technology Innovation Award. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A Santa Maria company that creates products for securing mobile devices in race cars and other vehicles and Allan Hancock College’s new program for free tuition received awards Thursday night in Solvang.

Mob Armor representatives accepted the Technology Innovation Award during the Future Forum and Annual Dinner for the Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara County at Hotel Corque.

Hancock College Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers accepted the Education Innovation Award for the Promise Program to pay for the first year of classes for local high school graduates.

Ben Oakley, chairman of the EconAlliance Innovation Award Committee, noted this marked the organization’s second year of handing out awards. 

“It’s really cool to recognize those organizations and companies that are doing special things here locally,” Oakley said. 

Mob Armor’s tag line is “an innovative approach to securing mobile devices,” Oakley said, adding that the firm builds products with durable materials and robust designs.

“As I learned more about this organization over the last several months, it’s just fantastic what they’re doing here locally,” he said. 

Mob Armor touts itself as creating “Ruggedized Mobile Technology.”

“They’re a vertically integrated company with engineering, media, marketing, sales, assembly all under one roof, all happening right here in northern Santa Barbara County,” Oakley said.

Mob Armor falls under Solve-it! Companies LLC, which consolidated operations in multiple locations in the state to one site in Santa Maria.

“It’s amazing to see so many people get together to celebrate business and industry, all different types of industry,” said Trevor Orrick, Mob Armor business development executive. “There aren’t many counties that do that.”

At the end of accepting the award, he raised his glass to offer a toast to EconAlliance members.

The company’s search for home included looking at various communities in California, but it chose Santa Maria due to the available fiber optics and quality workforce. 

“Frankly, you guys work hard. Everybody works hard in this county,” he said. “It’s hard to find, and then we find a group like Econ Alliance that backs us up. It’s an amazing thing you don’t see in a lot of places.”

The company’s workforce includes recent Cal Poly graduates as engineers, and assembly workers who are second-generation immigrant families.

“It’s great to be recognized for the innovation we’re working on, being able to take the resource we have and move very quickly in a very competitive market for mobile technology and smartphone mounts,” said Joel Hitchen, lead engineer and recent Cal Poly graduate.

The small company’s vertical integration means Mob Armour can get products to market quickly and outmaneuver larger competitors, Hitchen added.

The other award went to Hancock’s recently unveiled Promise Program, which will provide free tuition to students who graduate from any public, private or charter high school in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Ynez and Cuyama valleys, starting in 2018.

“This is just a fantastic program,” Oakley said, adding that Hancock’s Promise program is unique because it includes multiple phases to introduce younger students to the community college through Bulldog Bound.

Felix Esparza, aide to Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, poses with Allan Hancock College Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers at the EconAlliance Future Forum/Annual Dinner in Solvang, where the community college received the Education Innovation Award Thursday night. Click to view larger
Felix Esparza, aide to Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, poses with Allan Hancock College Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers at the EconAlliance Future Forum/Annual Dinner in Solvang, where the community college received the Education Innovation Award Thursday night. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“Our mission is to change the odds for our students and Promise is going to do that,” Walthers said as he accepted the award.

Legislation at the state level may allow students to attend Hancock without paying tuition for two years, he added.

When he arrived at the college, Walthers said, one of his first meetings involved EconAlliance representatives talking about the need to bring four-year degrees in Santa Maria, and he recently met with Cal Poly representatives.

“We’re actually making real traction and we’re working toward building four-year degrees here,” Walthers said. 

In addition to handing out awards, the EconAlliance event included a panel discussions on “Artificial Intelligence — Friend or Foe?” and “Broadband — State of the Art — Globally, Locally.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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