Tom O'Toole, a fifth-generation Californian who traces his roots to the Donner Party-era pioneers, could have taken his business anywhere in the state.
The bulk of his work for his company, Pacific Banknote, is done via modern telecommunication devices (phone, fax and e-mail); and regardless of where he'd be headquartered, O'Toole would still be jumping on airplanes, flying to the occasional conference and meeting around the country.
He used to keep shop in Marin County and leased his workspace in a commercial building, but just more than one year ago, he moved with his wife, Judi, to the more rural lifestyle offered by Nevada County. He now works out of their two-story home, which is nestled among trees in a quiet neighborhood in the unincorporated area of the county, just a few blocks from where his pioneering ancestors may have once traversed.
It's one of the best decisions they've ever made, O'Toole said.
Chuck Neeley, executive director of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council, said it is tough to know just how many companies like O'Toole's exist in the county but that operating out of home can often be a significant cost savings. O'Toole estimates that he saves about $40,000 per year on operating expenses by merging workspace with home.
Judi O'Toole helps her husband two days a week and also has a temporary job in a clerk-recorder's office. They feel lucky when their three children visit and sometimes take time off to go fly fishing.
Pacific Banknote is not only a rare breed of a company (O'Toole says there are only a half dozen others like it in the world), but is one with products well known - although overlooked - by many.
The company prints the specialty security paper used for stock certificates, vehicle titles and vital records - such as birth and death certificates.
"We get them coming and going," O'Toole said with a chuckle.
O'Toole has worked with dozens of corporations, from Disney, to Chevron, to now-defunct railroad companies, but his clients also include county and state health departments and recorders' offices.
He has a presence in several western states, including Montana, Idaho and Nevada, among others. In California, each of the 58 counties uses his paper, he said, lamenting that San Francisco is the only county that does not use his vital records paper.
"You'll get it back," Judi O'Toole said during a recent morning interview at the couple's home.
It is clear that her husband has a competitive edge and takes great pride in delivering a quality and secure product. He started Pacific Banknote two years ago with a San Francisco-based partner after both had worked in the industry for more than 20 years.
They split from their former company because there was talk that it would start printing its paper in Mexico, which O'Toole said he deemed a security risk, particularly in the post 9/11-era. Pacific Banknote prints in Chicago.
Given its small population, Nevada County does not generate the kind of income that some of California's larger communities might, but O'Toole said the account has always held a sentimental value for him because it was his third client in the state.
Nevada County's last order for vital records paper was about 18 months ago, when Kathleen Smith was appointed to take over the clerk-recorder position after Lorraine Jewett-Burdick's retirement.
"Our bond paper was not transferable and we had to have paper fast. They had about the same amount of time that we did; this company has come through for us," said Jacque Pollard, the county's supervising recorder. Nevada County ordered 6,000 sheets at 42 cents apiece and has yet to run out.
Security is also just as important here as it is elsewhere. The paper is kept "under lock and key" at the recorder's office, Kathleen Smith said.
Bruce Bolinger, who served as the county's clerk-recorder for 18 years, said he recalled only one case of tampering with the paper. It occurred in the mid-1980s when the recorder's office was housed in a small office in the courthouse. The area was cramped and busy. A county assistant district attorney who was engaged in a legal dispute with the birth mother of his adopted child managed to slip past the front clerks to alter the child's birth certificate, Bolinger said.
To ensure state-of-the art security, O'Toole said he attends recorders' conferences and trains employees who handle the paper to recognize fraud and counterfeit. Most recently, Pacific Banknote began printing a hologram on some paper, which is nearly impossible to duplicate.
Pollard said Pacific Banknote is the best company out there for the job.
"They are the ones that have the best support, best turnaround time, and best price," Pollard said. "Tommy O'Toole, he just happens to live in Nevada County."
Pacific Bancnote is the leading provider of vital record base stock (birth, death and marriage) certificate paper to states, counties and municipalities. We also provide stock certificates to publicly traded companies, MCO’s to vehicle manufacturers and many other documents of high negotiable value.
Tom O’Toole first pioneered the intaglio vital record paper over twenty-eight years ago. Since that time Tom has always set the highest industry standards by either increasing or improving the security features used today.