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Industry weathers economic downturn with layoffs, cutbacks; sees flexibility as key to recovery
It has been a nail-biting year for technology companies. They were already weary from struggling along in a flat economy when the terrorist attacks came on Sept 11. Since then, for some executives fingernails are getting perilously close to the cuticle.
"Now, it's really tough," said Tracy Weatherfield, plant manager for Varian Electronics Manufacturing in Rocklin. "We're creeping along at break-even now, waiting for things to turn around."
Few technology companies in the Sacramento region, big or small, have been spared hits this year. Some are dealing with how to emerge from slumps. Others are diversified enough so that their losses are minimized. For the most part, their prospects rise and fall with those of the U.S. economy, which in turn drives the global markets in which many tech companies trade.
A big shake-out had already begun in 2000 when the dot-com balloon burst and, at roughly the same time, personal computer sales slumped. Some economists thought the slowdown might be bottoming out when the attacks came in New York and Washington, D.C.
The attacks threw new doubts into the mix, with many economists saying a recession -- defined by two straight quarters of negative growth in the gross domestic product -- now appeared inevitable, and a recovery might be up to a year further off than previously predicted. In the week after the attack, the stock market dropped like a ball-bearing rolling off a table.
Ten days after the attacks, Dow Jones & Co. reported that the week's 10-best performing industries included wireless, telecommunications and fixed-line communications. Pacific Bell reported a rush on companies wanting teleconferencing hook-ups in reaction to the uncertainties of flying.
Only one tech sector was among the 10 worst performing industries for that dreary week Ominously, that sector was semiconductors. And semiconductors are the basic building blocks of other technology products, from personal computers and video games to appliances and cars.
By the third week after the terrorist acts, companies that depend on semiconductor sales like Rippey Corp. in El Dorado Hills were seeing signs of resilience. "This week there …