LOCK HAVEN — From conducting business during a pandemic to potential growth, Kambiz Damaghi, a First Quality executive, addressed myriad topics during a meeting with the Clinton County Economic Partnership.
Damaghi was the keynote speaker during the meeting, which was held via Zoom on Monday afternoon. He addressed the possibility of expansion, saying that adding a fourth machine was not in the cards — at least not yet.
“The fourth machine in Lock Haven has been on our radar … producing the type of product that we manufacture in Lock Haven requires a significant amount of infrastructure,” Damaghi said. “One would look at the 400 acres and say, ‘we have a lot of land.’ But, take my word for it, even in terms of even a place to put the machine, we are almost landlocked.”
The space, he said, is just one of the many hurdles First Quality faces if it desires to grow.
“There are a number of challenges there, including, but not limited to meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers to get permission from them … it’s not as easy as it may sound. We are working on it to see if it would make practical sense to have a fourth machine there. If there is any showstopper, those issues would be it,” Damaghi said.
Earlier in the meeting, Damaghi talked two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. He explained how First Quality was able to adjust, continue to manufacture and keep its doors open.
“We started going into our ‘COVID mode’ actually back in February of 2020. By the second week of March, we were well into writing our COVID playbook. We were extremely impressed with how our team engaged and how our team reacted internally with the community as well as our customers and vendor community … what they did and how they did it … simplifying this huge phenomenon, this huge thing that happened to simply it, maintain agility and do it with teamwork,” Damaghi said.
Damaghi didn’t downplay COVID-19. In fact, he said it was “difficult” to conduct business.
“It wasn’t easy, it was very difficult because we had to do it all remotely. Thanks to technology, it enabled us to deal with this pandemic. The way in which we did it, we went to our roots and our principles,” Damaghi said.
As a result of the pandemic, Damaghi said, projects got pushed to the back burner unless it was “a must.”
He said that First Quality put two mandates into place: Keeping people safe and business continuity.
“At the time … there weren’t any standards, any guidelines. Everybody, communities, individuals, families, healthcare, everyone was confused. They didn’t know what this was, how to deal with it. We took the state and federal guidelines and we implemented it as best that we could into our organization,” Damaghi said.
Like many businesses, First Quality had some employees go remote. However, because it is a manufacturing business, having employees on-site could not be avoided.
In spite of numerous safety precautions, Damaghi did say that some employees contracted the deadly virus.
“Unfortunately, we also had losses within the First Quality community. People who contracted the virus and did not survive. But, at the end of the day, we lived our life, for the most part like everybody else did,” Damaghi said.
Keystone Central School District superintendent Jacquelyn Martin and state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-McElhattan) were also on the call. Each talked about First Quality’s importance in the community. The Clinton County commissioners were at a conference and were unable to attend.
The next meeting will be held in September. A date has not been determined at this time.