Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Staff shrinks at Ketchum-based ESS

Some positions being cut or transferred to Califonia

Express Staff Writer

Eyewear Safety Systems is one of the primary providers of protective eyewear to the U.S. military. Photo by courtesy photo

California-based eyewear company Oakley is absorbing and eliminating some jobs at Ketchum-based Eyewear Safety Systems, which Oakley bought in 2007.

Steve Dondero, marketing vice president of ESS, said the company—which once had a local staff of more than 20 people—will likely maintain a group of about seven employees at its Ketchum office. Oakley representatives would not state how many jobs were being cut or moved to California.

ESS founder John Dondero, Steve Dondero’s father, said he is unhappy with the decision to move jobs out of Ketchum, where the eyewear company was established in 1998.

“It’s … based on large corporate decision-making and a lack of understanding of our potential operation,” he said.

John Dondero, who is now retired, described the process as a slow attrition of individuals in which jobs have been eliminated.

ESS is a primary supplier of protective eyewear to the U.S. military and is the sole authorized issuer of eyewear to the U.S. Marine Corps. It sells its products in more than 100 countries.

In 2007, ESS was sold to Oakley Inc. for $110 million. But recently, John Dondero said, the recession prompted Oakley to consolidate positions.

“When sequestration cut federal spending, ESS sales dropped,” he said. “The knee-jerk corporate reaction was to make a change.”

Steve Dondero said his position will be absorbed into Oakley’s California offices in November.
“There continues to be a sales force and some customer service here in Ketchum,” he said. “The long-term plan is to have those jobs stay in the (Wood River) Valley. Now, a lot of functions that used to be performed here are now being performed out of the Oakley-headquartered office.”
Steve Dondero said he plans to continue to live in the Wood River Valley.

In a statement released by Oakley, the company said, “ESS has maintained its position as market share leader in federal contract sales to the military. However, 2013 has proven to be a challenging year. To adapt to a changing market environment and build a foundation to grow and prosper in the future, the Oakley defense division is centralizing operations out of Oakley’s Foothill Ranch, Calif., headquarters. However, ESS is maintaining a domestic sales office in Sun Valley.”

The statement also said employees have been offered a chance to relocate to California to take a shared service role. For those who are unable to relocate or have had their positions eliminated, Oakley will provide “a robust transition plan that offers outside career assistance,” the company said.
Despite the cuts, John Dondero said he remains appreciative of the relationship ESS has had with Oakley.

“There are a lot of great capabilities we have and we have a great relationship with Oakley,” he said.
Steve Dondero concurred.

“The plan is to have ESS continue as an industry leader, just with some positions moved to California,” he said.

Eric Avissar:

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