Omega Pacific will begin consolidating its operations in June by combining separate manufacturing plants and administration offices into a new, single location approximately a mile from its two current facilities.
Omega Pacific's announced move comes on the heels of a May 13 ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court, which declares participation in the Class I Correctional Industries program is inconsistent with constitutional language. Omega Pacific has been a participating member of the combined federal/state program since 1995 and has built the majority of its goods within the Airway Heights Medium Security Correctional Center outside Spokane, Wash. The State Supreme Court had been considering this ruling, which affects seven companies and approximately 175 jobs held by inmate workers, for several months before reaching a 5-4 decision.
According to Bert Atwater, president of Omega Pacific, the program, while considered successful by his company, has been assailed by non-participating companies for years.
"We took flak for a long time over our involvement in the program. Many of our critics claimed we took advantage of an unfair business advantage but I challenge them to show me just where it was. We didn't get any breaks in labor rates or wages and security issues and tool counts ate up our rent allowance," Atwater told SNEWSÂ®.
"Meanwhile, inmates who participate in this program were 87 percent less likely to re-offend than inmates who didn't. Besides learning how to become metalworkers, machine operators, clerks and assemblers, these men were able to remain a viable and integral part of the lives of their families on the outside. Most of them sent money home every month to help maintain what they left behind. It helped them to have something they could look forward to when they were released," said Atwater.
Atwater regrets the Supreme Court decision. "This program is the single-most effective form of prison rehabilitation in the history of the United States prison system. A few shortsighted individuals never understood that and it's now being discarded. Society is the real victim in this ruling."
Once the move is completed, all operations, including manufacturing, sales, marketing, purchasing, quality control and administration, will be housed under one roof for the first time since 1999.
"This move provides us the opportunity to increase efficiencies and reduce doubling up on such departments as shipping and secondary assembly as we move forward," said Atwater.
The company has purchased a 21,000-square-foot facility that will be expanded to more than 40,000 feet over the summer to prepare for the growth and expansion the company anticipates over the next five years.
While Omega Pacific credits the prison workforce with helping the company increase its quality and production, and earn an ISO 9001 status, it is eager to move forward. Â
"Quite frankly, I can't wait to show our critics that Omega Pacific is successful because we're Omega Pacific, not because we operated out of a prison," said Michael Lane, sales and marketing director for the company.
The company is increasing production and hiring new workers to maintain supply through the summer transition and has promised it will not miss a single order.
Omega Pacific's new address is: 11427 W. 21st Ave., Airway Heights, WA 99001. Phone numbers remain unchanged.