SCOTTS VALLEY - Dozens of people turned out Friday to say goodbye to Lintelle Engineering founder Bill Turner, who hosted a picnic for current and former staff in the company parking lot on El Pueblo Road.
Lintelle, founded in 1989, was forced to close after its largest customer, Solyndra, filed for bankruptcy owing $1.9 million for equipment built by Lintelle employees. The bankruptcy filing came despite Solyndra receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee.
"It's hard to see this happen," asked Teri Stacher, 47, of Santa Cruz, who worked for Lintelle for 12 years. "We figured with the federal government backing that they did their research. It wasn't true. Will anything be learned from this experience?"
She hugged Turner and introduced her mother, her daughter and her granddaughter. Others also brought their families to the picnic catered by Taqueria Los Gallos, reminding Turner of happier days.
"My favorite day of the year was the summer picnic," he said. "You got to see all the families. I'll miss that."
Employees talked about Turner's skills as a boss and his generosity, handing out gift cards and turkeys at Thanksgiving.
Stacher was waitressing at Malone's at night when Turner, eating with his papers spread out on a table, sensed she was a go-getter and offered her a job. She started as a receptionist, then moved into purchasing, where she became manager.
She'll start Monday at Fox Shox in Watsonville, working on new product development.
Ralph Sanchez, 47, of Watsonville, thought when he started at Lintelle, it would be temporary. He stayed more than 11 years.
"This was my home," he said. "I just like learning. I'll do whatever."
He was a driver, but also worked in shipping, receiving and the stockroom. He plans to go the Capitola Career Center Monday to see what's available.
Turner told a story about how he needed a delivery Friday afternoon in Santa Maria, a three-and-half hour ride.
Sanchez volunteered. He got the product there by 8 p.m. as needed.
"You have to make the customer happy," he said. "They might give you more work."
Former employees came back, like Balbir Kaloti, 55, an electrical engineer, who drove from San Jose.
"I heard from a friend it was closing," said Kaloti, who also had a stint at Oliver Design in Scotts Valley.
He is looking for work again after getting a layoff notice from his job in Silicon Valley.
The women who worked in production joked with Ben Wheeler, 69, a test engineer who retired two years ago.
"Remember when you brought a 20-year-old computer to the Christmas party?" asked one. "It's sad, but at least we get to see our old co-workers."
Larkin Precision Machining in Scotts Valley also got orders from Solyndra.
"We did a lot of subcontract work for Lintelle," said chief executive officer Rob Larkin, wishing Turner the best. "We did a lot for Solyndra a year ago."
Turner, 50, does not plan to retire.
"I hope to keep on working for the foreseeable future," he said.