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Maglite Maker to Build New Ontario Complex

Mag Instrument says plans for a headquarters and factory will create 1,600 jobs in the next three years.

August 25, 2004|James F. Peltz | Times Staff Writer

Mag Instrument Inc., the maker of Maglite flashlights, plans to build a headquarters and manufacturing plant in Ontario that the company says would create 1,600 jobs over the next three years.

The 700,000-square-foot facility would replace Mag Instrument's existing Ontario headquarters and factory. An unspecified number of Mag Instrument jobs in other states would move to the new complex.

Privately held Mag Instrument, with annual sales of about $250 million, employs 800 people. Its founder and chief executive, Anthony Maglica, 73, built the company from scratch and is a fervent believer in keeping all of its operations in the U.S.

"I could go and make this stuff in China like everybody else, but where would my people be?" Maglica said Tuesday. "They wouldn't have a job."

The planned complex, which the company is expected to announce Thursday, would be a shot in the arm for California, which has been attacked for having an unfriendly business climate, said Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. The California labor market has also been weak: Employers shed a net 17,300 jobs in July.

"This is one of the most significant expansions in quite some time, in terms of square footage and jobs," Kyser said.

Mag Instrument probably would have built its plant in Ontario even if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others in Sacramento hadn't pushed to overhaul the workers' compensation system and taken other pro-business steps, said Maglica, who has long donated to Republican causes.

Business conditions "are getting better," Maglica said, "but there's still a lot of work to be done."

Mag Instrument expects to add the 1,600 jobs as it rolls out products, installs upgraded manufacturing processes and adds to its research and development, Maglica said.

The new jobs will range "from the janitor all the way up to the highest technician and engineer," he said.

Mag Instrument maintains that by the time the factory and its added production are fully up to speed in two to three years, it will spend $260 million annually on raw materials, supplies and services, a boost for the state economy.

In addition, the company plans to invest $80 million in automation equipment and other capital projects at the new Ontario site.

Maglica was born in New York but raised in his mother's native Croatia. After returning to the U.S. in 1950, he started a machine-tool business in Los Angeles and later made precision parts for industry and the military.

In the late 1970s, he began making and selling the sturdy Maglite flashlights that quickly became popular with police officers, firefighters, mechanics and safety workers. The flashlights are widely available at retailers such as Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. and in 85 foreign countries.

Over the years, Maglica has aggressively sued several other flashlight makers for allegedly infringing his products' patents.

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