Omega Pacific, a climbing gear manufacturer based in Airway Heights, is closing.
The news was first reported Monday by the climbing magazine Rock and Ice.
According to the magazine, CEO Rob Nadeau sent an email to customers announcing the closure.
“As Omega Pacific starts the new year, I’m writing you today as CEO to share some important information about Omega Pacific’s future,” the letter states. “After 37 years as a U.S. manufacturer of high-quality climbing and rescue hardware, Omega Pacific has made the decision to close its doors. The decision is based upon economic factors, and the founder’s decision to retire. Therefore, Omega Pacific will begin winding down business operations immediately. This news is shared with you early in the process so that conversations may begin about how best to meet your ongoing product needs.”
A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the closure.
Matt Liere worked at Omega Pacific for about nine years as a quality control manager. He said employees were told Jan. 7.
“They announced it at 7:30 a.m. at a group meeting,” Liere said. “At 12:30 p.m., they gave me my termination papers. I was the first one to go.”
When he started working at the company there were more than 60 full-time employees. Now there are about 20, he said.
“The market has dried up,” he said. “Recreational climbers typically don’t have money. They buy a carabiner and it lasts them forever. They don’t buy another unless it breaks, and ours don’t break.”
The company tried to attract more industrial customers but was unable to make it sustainable, he said.
The company is owned by Bert Atwater.
The closure follows the planned shuttering of longtime Spokane outdoor gear shop Mountain Gear. And in July, Black Diamond laid off 70 of its 132 manufacturing division employees in Salt Lake City and announced plans to move its climbing manufacturing operations overseas.
Omega Pacific was founded in the Seattle region in 1982 and moved to Spokane in 1995. It produces climbing gear – including cams, carabiners, ice axes and more – selling to REI, Mountain Gear and other outdoor retail companies. The company also manufactures technical rescue gear.
The company moved to the Spokane area because, at the time, it was allowed to employ inmates at the Airway Heights Correctional Center. For eight years, Omega Pacific employed about 40 inmates. It paid the inmates more than minimum wage but didn’t provide benefits or workers’ compensation.
In 2004, the state Supreme Court ruled that allowing private companies to employ inmates violated the state constitution.
“It was a good job while I had it,” Liere said. “It paid me well and they treated the people really well.”
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