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76 SMT007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2022 Article by Stanley Bentley ICAPE GROUP When I look at the landscape of U.S.-based PCB fabricators, the title of this article reminds me of a 1960s protest song. If you don't remem- ber the song or that era, you have some inter- esting research to do. As well, a Hank Wil- liams, Jr., song comes to mind, "All my rowdy iends have settled…" Seriously, I am pleased to see many of my old friends taking advantage of the present opportunities. e U.S. PCB industry is seeing a third wave of activity that is removing PCB shops from the general marketplace. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a wave of closures as the PCB business quickly transitioned to Asia. is move was so sudden that many shops could not transition fast enough to remain in business. e second wave, which happened around 2005, was what I call "e Key Takers"; these were ruthless raiders that promised struggling shops a way to preserve their business, protect their employees, and maintain a comfortable lifestyle. None of that was true, as their only desire was to obtain the customers without investing any cash. e shops were auctioned, the customers transferred to an outsourcing agent, and the owners discharged (while keep- ing the debt). Now, the third wave is gaining momentum. ere seems to be two different groups gob- bling up the remaining U.S. shops. e first are the investment groups that are "rolling up" shops into one entity. is is an activity that is common for fragmented industries. e only question is why it took so long in the PCB space. e other is a bit of a surprise. We are seeing M&A brokers approaching indepen- dent shops on behalf of an OEM. e apparent motive is not about earnings or vertical integra- tion, but rather a way of stabilizing their supply chain for PCBs. Ironically, the PCB industry in the U.S. began that way with the shops owned by large OEMs. It is unclear whether either of these trends is good for the consumer. Investor groups don't buy things with any regard to the public good. ey are looking for profits and the multiple those profits create in stock pric- Where Have All the Board Shops Gone?

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