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OXNARD : Ex-Workers at Defunct Abex Start Own Firm

Abex Aerospace shut down its Oxnard plant last December, but Louis Carrizales wasn’t ready to give up the work he was doing there.

So he asked his father and his boss to join him in a new business. Together they bought the equipment they had used for years in Abex’s hydraulics-testing laboratory.

Now their tiny Oxnard firm, Custom Hydraulics & Instrumentation, does testing, design and repair work on everything from airplane valves to barber chairs.

“My dream is to make this a manufacturing center and employ other people and get some of that aerospace work back,” said Carrizales, 33, who served as union president before Abex moved out of town. “You can never give up.”

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In the center of their work garage sits the group’s latest project, a test simulator for an airplane valve. The machine, designed and built by the four-man business, will test the valve’s ability to perform functions such as operating aircraft rudders and flaps.

A few feet away sit two barber’s chairs with broken hydraulic lifts.

“We’ll do anything,” said Dale J. Filkins, the firm’s vice president and Carrizales’ former boss. “As of right now, none of us are making any money.

“We aren’t capitalized very well. It’s hoping that the check comes from the last job before we have to take the money out of our savings accounts.”

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In fact, Carrizales works another job. Every morning at 6:30, he heads to a job in Camarillo, repairing and maintaining hydraulic equipment for Astrofoam Molding Co. After work, he heads over to his firm’s small garage/office in Oxnard.

So far, the firm has not advertised. Instead it relies on word-of-mouth and a network of former Abex workers to bring in projects.

A just-completed valve simulator will go to Pacific Hydraulics Systems in Santa Maria, another firm made up of former Abex workers.

“Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve found some Abex employees,” said Al Carrizales, who worked nearly 30 years at the Oxnard plant before joining his son in the business venture.

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