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Omega Pacific announces relocation, end of inmate labor program.

Spokane, WA – Omega Pacific, a leading manufacturer of climbing, rescue and safety equipment announced today that it will be consolidating its operations by combining separate manufacturing plants and administration offices into a new, single location approximately a mile from its two current facilities. The move, which will be conducted in phases, will begin in June. Upon conclusion, 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 company president Bert Atwater. According to Atwater, the company has purchased a 21,000 square-foot facility that will be expanded to over 40,000 feet over the summer to prepare for the growth and expansion the company anticipates over the next five years. “This is a good time for the company and we need to prepare ourselves for the long-term future,” Atwater said.

The announcement comes on the heels of a May 13, 2004 ruling by the Washington State Supreme court which declares participation in the Class I Correctional Industries program 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 their goods within the Airway Heights Medium Security Correctional Center outside Spokane, Washington. 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.

“The timing of the ruling is largely coincidental,” reported Rob Nadeau, CEO. “We’d been preparing for a move like this for some time, actually. This only pushes the timeline a bit forward,” he said. “We do not expect our customers to notice any change at all.”

According to Atwater, the program, while considered successful by every measure according to him, 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. Meanwhile, inmates who participate in this program were 87% 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 with 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.

The Supreme Court ruling, while regrettable, according to sales and marketing director Michael Lane, wasn’t the sole reason for the move. “Frankly, we’d grown weary of having so many misinformed and uneducated people try to denigrate us for our involvement in this program. Having to repeatedly defend our position was beginning to take its toll on our overall efficiency.”

Atwater adds, “it’s really too bad, to tell you the truth. This program is the single-most effective form of prison rehabilitation in the history of the United States prison system. A few short-sighted individuals never understood that and it’s now being discarded. Society is the real victim in this ruling.”

Although the timing of the move may have been unexpected, the company is optimistic about its future because it has prepared for this possibility for some time. “I’m pretty excited about the future,” said Lane, “we’re strong in our markets; we know what we’re doing and we have an excellent management staff in place. Our new facility will provide increased efficiencies and greater communication between departments, which was always a challenge while our company was housed in two separate facilities.” He adds, “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.”

“We regret that we have to say goodbye to our current workforce,” said Nadeau. “They’ve helped us increase quality and production. They were essential to us earning our ISO 9001 status last year and they will be sorely missed. We wish them good luck in the future.”

The company is increasing production and hiring new workers to maintain supply through the summer transition. “We won’t miss an order,” Lane said. Meanwhile, the company will continue to move forward with design of the innovative Link Cam active camming device for the recreational climbing market, which it intends to launch at Summer OR in August 2004.

For further information, please contact Michael Lane at 800.360.3990 or at [email protected]. Omega Pacific's new address is 11427 W. 21st Avenue, Airway Heights, WA 99001. Phone numbers are unchanged at 800.360.3990 or 509.456.0170. Fax is 509.456.0194.

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