Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Blu Homes Circling the Drain? 3rd CEO in Less Than a Year

It is always painful to see what was once a nationwide prefab home manufacturer forced to consolidate back to a single state, especially Blu Homes who had opened a huge plant on Mare Island in California just a few years ago.

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Apparently a lot has happened to them recently. They are leaving their huge factory after going through three CEOs in less than a year. Bill Haney, one of the founders stepped down from that position and was replaced by Kaitlin Haggerty on June 1st of 2016. Now a new CEO, Zephan McMinn, an attorney and an employee at Blu Homes since April 2015, has just taken over the reins and is preparing to lead Blu Homes to whatever the next step in their evolution might be.

Sorta makes one ask why all those millions of dollars that investors poured into Blu Homes didn’t make this work out.

Here is the entire story as published in the Times-Herald Business section on 1/10/17:

Blu Homes to leave big, blue Mare Island building

Blu Homes, a “green” prefab home manufacturer on Mare Island since 2014, will likely move out of its factory by the end of this quarter, in favor of a less expensive facility, probably in another state, company officials said this week.

They also said they hope to find a similar manufacturing business to move in to the space and that other parts of the firm will remain on the island.

There were a number of layoffs late last week, and a new CEO, Zephan McMinn, has stepped in, marketing director Robin Schick said. Most of the positions lost were in production and office support staff, he said.

Founded in Massachusetts about a decade ago, in 2012, the firm brought its manufacturing to the 275,000 square foot building at 1245 Nimitz Avenue — building 680, on Mare Island, which is best known for its role rebuilding the Pacific Fleet after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It’s corporate headquarters followed in 2014, increasing the company’s presence on the Island from 20 factory employees to more than “260 craftspeople, engineers, architects, product development, project management and business professionals,” officials said at the time.

While they’re down to bare bones now, having shed all “redundancy,” the move is not terminal but transitional, Schick said.

“The company is still moving forward as usual,” he said. “There were a handful of layoffs late last week, but there’s talk of moving production to another place — maybe in the area, maybe someplace else.”

Schick described the latest developments as common “for start-ups like Blu Homes,” as better ways are found to build the product more economically.

“People love the designs, and we’ve been signing people up for homes at a record pace since the election, but we’re working on making the product for less so we can sell it for less,” he said. “We’re trying to fix the business model. The overhead has been crippling.”

Schick said workers are “finishing up the last few homes under order and then, we’re likely moving production elsewhere,” Schick said.

Co-founder and Vice President Maura McCarthy said the firm is hoping to find a similar manufacturing firm to sublet the building, and hopefully use the same production employees, of which there are about 30.

“We have done a downsizing, laid off a significant chunk of our workforce,” she said. “We love Lennar (Mare Island); they’ve been a fabulous landlord. The city of Vallejo has been wonderful. The challenge we’ve been facing is the cost to build in California is high, with the state’s ‘green’ standards, and insurance standards — we’re struggling with that.”

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the Times-Herald Business article


Anonymous said...

If you listen you can hear the water circling the drain. I wonder if those investors have finally pulled the plug.

Builder Bob said...

Coach, I know you have never been a fan of Blu Homes, always pointing out to anyone that would listen that their days were numbered. That article proves that you were right all along. I also remember an article you did about 5 years ago when the guy from California bought Excel and you questioned how someone with no experience in modular homes could possibly turn it around. Looks like you're two for two.

Anonymous said...

What! No more wine and cheese Open Houses. Say it ain't so.

NMtmblwd said...

The reason why this company was and or is doomed is because they have failed to realize there are other manufacturers producing quality pre-fabs at a much lower price.