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Tour Highlights Watsonville's Big Businesses

Local leaders visited Fox Shox, an experimental strawberry field and Couch Distributing Tuesday.

A new, high-end shock for a mountain bike, ATV or motorcycle comes off the production line at Fox Racing Shox every 30 seconds.

The Watsonville-based company produces 2,000 suspension products a day. Tuesday morning, local leaders toured Fox and two other Watsonville business behemoths to learn what has made them successful.

At Fox, which moved to Watsonville from San Jose because the company needed room to grow, success has been tied to flexibility and innovation—such as being able to create a new production line to build the shocks for Ford's F-150 SVT Raptor.

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Adaptation has also been key for the two other businesses toured Tuesday: the California Strawberry Commission's experimental strawberry field and Couch Distributing Company.

"I think there's a lot of important stories with critical lessons for us as policy-makers to learn," said State Assemblyman Luis Alejo, whose office organized the tour. "You're not going to hear better advice than hearing from these business leaders."

At Couch, a facility built on land annexed into the city to allow the company to expand, owner George Couch praised his relationships with city staff, police officers and the fire department.

"We've been very fortunate to continue to grow," said Couch.

He was one of five employees when he bought the company in 1973. Today the beer distributor has 160 employees and exclusive contracts to stock beer on store shelves in three counties.

At the demonstration field, Alejo and others saw the possible future of strawberry farming as fumigants are phased out. One option for the largest crop in the Pajaro Valley is growing the berries in a modified hydroponic system using coconut coir, researcher Hillary Thomas explained.

Alejo was joined on the tour by Watsonville City Councilmen Felipe Hernandez and Lowell Hurst, staff from the offices county Supervisor Greg Caput's and state Senate-elect Bill Monning, Planning Commissioner Pedro Castillo and city staffers. The state representative said he was pleased to hear about so many family wage jobs in the city.

"I couldn't be prouder," said Alejo, who grew up in Watsonville and is a past mayor. "These are great jobs that are helping people."

This is the second year Alejo has organized a tour of businesses in the city. He visited Martinelli's, CRG, Mica Cellars and Easy Racers.

Learn more about unique Watsonville businesses here and check back later in the week for more in-depth coverage.

David H. Perez November 14, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Anything for a photo op.

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