Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hardwood Business Hits The Floor Running

Hardwood Business Hits The Floor Running
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - Paul Yau had one goal in mind when he relocated his business from Napa to Solano Business Park in Fairfield. He wanted to take over the world . . . of premium hardwood flooring.

The owner of Gentry Hardwood Floors wanted a location that would position him in the gateway to Northern California and the rest of the country. He has been in business for four years and has not looked back since moving to Fairfield in 2005.

Yau manufactures premium hardwood flooring and distributes to retailers, developers, contractors and architects.

"Right now, we sell directly to 100 retailers in Northern California from Reno to Redding and Carmel," said Yau, who runs his business in a 12,000-square-foot facility. "I moved from Napa because I wanted a location that would give me direct access to Northern California, with transportation corridors to supply customers in all directions."

His strategy to make his flooring a hot commodity is already in place. Yau recently attended the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco and the Surfaces Trade Show in Las Vegas to keep abreast of what's new in the home designing market.

"By attending trade shows I see firsthand the new developments and designs for homes and what the retailers are looking for," said Yau. "Hardwood floors are very attractive, and they help homes sell faster."

A career in the hardwood flooring was not Yau's lifelong dream. Yau, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from UC Berkeley stumbled into hardwood floors from personal experience. He wanted to replace the carpet in his Napa home with hardwood but was surprised at the cost.

"I really had no idea that hardwood floors were that expensive," he said. "So I looked into how the entire process was done and got into business myself."

Yau buys wood from Russia. It is shipped to China, where it is manufactured.

"Business has been really good," said Yau. "Now I'm looking for a bigger facility in Fairfield."

Finding suitable land will not be a problem for Yau. According to a land survey from the city's Economic Development Division, Fairfield has available land for industrial development and office space. Fairfield has averaged 400,000 square feet of new industrial development and 282,000 square feet of commercial and office development per year since 1990.

The city has permitted more than 7 million square feet of retail, office and industrial development since 1995.

"We have a lot of business parks that cater to different types of businesses, said Curt Johnston, assistant director of the Economic Development Division. "We actively recruit to brand the city as the next premium location for industrial and office development in the Bay Area."

Fairfield has attracted companies from Alameda and Contra Costa counties, said Johnston, who believes the market is ripe for businesses from San Jose, Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties that want to relocate and expand.

"Calbee America has a new facility in Fairfield, and Guittard Chocolates is beginning work on their production line," Johnston said. "We have land that is available for immediate development, as well as the infrastructure to support it.

"We are good at attracting firms who like the central location of Fairfield, with the proximity to the Bay Area counties and Sacramento."

Tim Ridosh, marketing director for the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce, is not surprised that business owners are choosing to headquarter their businesses here.

"The perfect example is Copart, Inc. in Green Valley," Ridosh said. "They are an international company who will be celebrating 25 years, and they can do everything from Fairfield.

"All the development will come this way. Our land is cheaper, and we have a lot of it waiting to be developed. Our transportation corridors can lead you all the way to the East Coast, while our ports can take your products West."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or ibebea@dailyrepublic.net.

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