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EmWare forced to lay off 73 'talented and bright' staffers

S.L. firm is sound financially but is changing its strategies

EmWare, a Salt Lake-based device-networking company, reduced its work force Friday by 45 percent.

Seventy-three employees, most of them from the Salt Lake office, were let go with severance packages and the promise of career counseling and support services.

The company is sound financially, and analysts are predicting tremendous growth for device-networking companies, but no one knows when it will occur, said Michael D. Nelson, chief executive officer and co-founder of emWare. He said they've watched other companies look into the future while spending their last dime, and they didn't want to do that.

"Many companies made these decisions too late, and that is why we are taking proactive, fiscally responsible measures today," Nelson said. "They fade out and burn out before it happens. Moving forward, emWare will focus on key markets to drive our technology, assuring we remain strong and viable for the long term."

The company plans to focus on specific vertical markets that offer greater potential, including energy management and vending applications for its technology. It also wants to leverage existing relationships. For instance, emWare has a strong relationship with AT&T, which uses its gateway service on its Wide Area Network.

Power management and conservation are becoming major issues. EmWare can connect thermostats to utility companies, and in some markets, while the customer can change the device-enabled thermostat, utility companies are offering big discounts if they are allowed to control the temperature by two to four degrees to meet overall demand and save power. EmWare also allows networking with water meters, home sprinklers and other systems, control of which can be gained over the Internet. There's huge potential there, Nelson said.

Letting go of so many "talented and bright" employees was hard, said company spokeswoman Debbie Sexton, adding that the company was trying hard to help them with their transitions by offering the services of the same organizational consultants that helped Novell and 3Com through similar reductions in force.

Nelson said the work force cuts were made in every department, on a case-by-case basis.

"We had the best employees on the Wasatch Front, and sometimes it came down to one little skill set this way and that way. We want to make sure the employees we let go are well-treated because we plan to grow again. The markets are down right now. We want these employees to come back to us when things are better."