Why Transfer Flow & Renlicon Think You Should Start a Business in Chico

Adventure is at the core of both Transfer Flow and Renlicon.

The slogans on their home pages read “Refuel Your Adventures” and “Outfitting Your Adventures,” respectively.

So it’s no surprise the products they sell involve getting their customers outside. Transfer Flow manufactures fuel tanks, generator tanks, hydraulic tanks, and fuel system components as well as products used in mobility vehicles for people with disabilities.

Renlicon sells goods for outdoor activities, like camp kitchen items and their “Out-In-About Box™,” a storage solution for supplies.

And it’s fitting, since an adventure is what took Transfer Flow founders Bill and Jeanne Gaines to Chico in the first place.

Bill had worked as a Senior Tooling Engineer for General Motors (GM) for 10 years. But after a decade of working for someone else, Bill was ready to try his hand at entrepreneurship. So he took a leap, moved back to Northern California, and decided to start a company that manufactured fuel tanks for RVs.

Bill and Jeanne originally wanted to open their business in Red Bluff, CA (their hometown). But they changed their mind for several reasons:

  • At the time, Chico was encouraging manufacturers to set up shop there since the city’s government understood the economic advantage it could bring, and had buildings with the appropriate power available for use.
  • Chico’s workplace is exceptional, since so many families move there for the great quality of life.
  • The two local colleges, Butte College and Chico State University, are great places to source employees.
  • They could partner with local suppliers, such as MJB Welding Supply.

Like so many other businesses, Bill and Jeanne decided to take advantage of these incentives. In 1983, Transfer Flow opened its doors by the Chico Airport.

Image of Bill and Jeanne Gaines, founders of Transfer Flow.

Warren Johnson, the VP/Creative Director of Transfer Flow and Renlicon, also landed in Chico—and has no plans to leave any time soon.

He was studying graphic design and advertising at a college in the big city—San Jose State University, to be exact. And that’s where he met Lisa, Bill and Jeanne’s daughter, in 1987. Although he already had a job as an art director for a publication in the Bay Area, Lisa invited Warren to come up to Chico and show her parents his work. They loved it, offered him a brand new role—the Head of the Marketing Department for the newly formed company—and the rest is history.

Image of Lisa and Warren, second-generation owners.

Now, Lisa and Warren, second-generation owners of Transfer Flow, run the company together, with Lisa as President and CEO and Warren as VP/Creative Director. Transfer Flow will be celebrating 40 years in business in 2023!

And why do they continue to stay? Most of their business is national as opposed to regional, so it’s not necessary to live in Chico. But Warren can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Their love for their employees, according to Warren, is one of the biggest reasons they won’t leave Chico.

They’ve never even entertained the thought of moving their business to the Nashville area, where Transfer Flow has a warehouse. Even though it might make more sense, Warren says it’s not an option. “We would never move because we think very highly of all our employees,” he says. “We’re definitely staying in Chico because of them.”

In addition to their staff, there are several other reasons Warren loves living in Chico:

  • The small-town feel, complete with friendly people.
  • The close proximity to both outdoor recreation areas, like Tahoe, and big cities, like those in the Bay Area.
  • The vibrant downtown with fantastic restaurant options.
  • The absence of traffic, and compact size—it takes about 15 minutes to get across town.
  • The safe, fun environment that made a great place for their son to grow up.

Warren encourages other manufacturers to start businesses in Chico.

He echoed what Bill and Jeanne mentioned about the nearby colleges. Transfer Flow has hired many graduates in departments like engineering, welding, marketing, and production. And he credits much of their success to these hires.

He also notes many people stay in Chico because of family ties. Many of them don’t even consider moving elsewhere. Because of this, Warren thinks that businesses will have long-term staff members if they treat them well.

“If you support and make sure your employees come first and build a culture that continuously promotes that,” says Warren, “You will have employees stay with you.”

And this is reflected in Transfer Flow’s business model. “We have a strong family-like atmosphere,” says Warren. “We have a lot of fun at our workplace, and that is the number one reason our staff stay with Transfer Flow for well over the industry average.”

And stay they do. Of the 88 employees, about 30 of them have worked at Transfer Flow for 10+ years.

Warren thinks this can also be the case for other businesses that open in Chico.

But be careful—you might just fall in love with Chico as much as Warren has.

Before Chico, five years was the longest he’d ever lived in one place due to his father’s 30-year Air Force Career. And now he’s been in Chico for 32 years. “Growing up as a military brat and moving from military base to military base, I didn’t have a hometown. Chico is definitely my hometown now,” he says.

And it just might be yours, too.

Chico has the space to get your business up and running, and the room it needs to grow— look into starting your business in Chico today!