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Made in Plattsburgh: Local Manufacturing Feature


Thursday, April 30, 2015


From: ABC 22, Local News

http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/story/d/story/made-in-plattsburgh-benefits-challenges-to-growing/24070/Ofivedem_kWgMFBHPXLV0Q


PLATTSBURGH, NY - 

What do fondant icing, chandeliers and toilet paper have in common? They're all made in Plattsburgh.

It's a town that hasn't stopped growing in decades.


INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION

The world is starting to take notice.

Plattsburgh was recently recognized by fDi Magazine (Foreign Direct Investment), a publication of the Financial Times of London, as the #2 American Microcity of the Future. A microcity is a city with less than 100,000 people.

Plattsburgh was also ranked #1 for Human Capital & Lifestyle and Foreign Direct Investment Strategy.


STUDYING MANUFACTURING

Donovan Berry and Mitchell Garner want to be two fresh new faces in the wind power industry.

I want to work on the generators and climb the ladders and work inside the machine on making them rotate,” said Berry, a Clinton Community College student.

It's a job that's going to be here forever and it's growing,” said Mitchell Garner, also a student.

They both moved away from home to attend Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh.

The College recently reworked its manufacturing curriculum to answer to changing needs in the workforce.

"[It was] in response to business and industry feedback, student needs, jobs it was time to revamp,” said Paul DeDominicas, Clinton Community College Director of Community & Workforce Development.

It's a sign of the times in the greater Plattsburgh area.


HISTORY OF MANUFACTURING

A dollar involved in manufacturing in the community, it's estimated will revolve and turn over in the community at least 5 times,” said Garry Douglas, President & CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

Douglas says the effort to rev up the region's economy took decades.

This is a region that has for over 100 years made things,” said Douglas. “It's a manufacturing center."

The chamber wasn't at it alone.

The Development Corporation was organized in the 1970's by private investors to spur more business. “Because there were no jobs. There were no economic development,” said Paul Grasso, President & CEO of The Development Corporation. “And they thought something needed to be done to jump start that activity."

The Development Corporation evolved into a non-profit organization and its staff now manages 3 industrial parks in Clinton County.

Grasso says those parks house around 30 businesses, at a 94% occupancy rate.

There's a synergy because of the buildings that are here and the companies that are here so there's a sense of activity,” said Grasso.


WHAT'S MADE IN PLATTSBURGH

The number of internationally-recognized products being made in the Plattsburgh area may surprise you.

There's Fujitsu - the company's self-checkout equipment manufacturing happens on Route 3.

Swarovski Lighting - the world's leading manufacturer of premium crystal lighting is Plattsburgh-based. Crystals made there hang at the White House and Buckingham Palace.

Bombardier – the final assembly and test center for Bombardier rail cars being delivered to the U.S. marketplace is at its Plattsburgh facility. Over 7 billion people worldwide hitch a ride on them every year.

Quilted Northern Ultra toilet paper and Brawny paper towels are made at Georgia Pacific's Plattsburgh facility.

Global Sugar Art is the world's largest retailer of rolled fondant icing.

Find out about more companies here: http://thedevelopcorp.com/major-employers/

So what's attracting them?


QUEBEC/NEW YORK CORRIDOR

This community and its leadership took a good look 20 years ago and said what business are we in? And I think we correctly decided we're in the Montreal business,” said Douglas.

Douglas has long advertised Plattsburgh as Montreal's U.S. Suburb.

He says 15% of the Clinton County workforce gets up and goes to work every day at a Canadian company in the county.

Another important sign of growth in Plattsburgh is the expanding Plattsburgh International Airport.

The expansion project is now under construction. Douglas says 85% of the airport's passengers come from Montreal.


NOVA BUS/PREVOST EXPANSION

One of those Canadian companies is Nova Bus and its recently-expanded sister company, Prevost.

Close proximity allows our engineers to travel back and forth and do what they need to do without having to spend overnight,” said Jim Tooley, Head of Industrial Strategy.

Tooley says his crew is making hundreds of buses this year for the Chicago and New York City transit systems.

A year ago, 200 employees worked there. There are now more than 300.

We have plans to expand into next year. That could add 35-40 additional employees,” said Tooley.

That success is leading to growth nearby.

Spencer ARL is 2.5 miles away. The company opened parallel to Nova Bus in 2009. Its workforce has quadrupled since then.

Nova Bus wanted to better utilize their plan for other things, other activities, put more buses inside, they turned around and outsourced more and more of that work to us,” John Vermette, General Manager at Spencer ARL.

Now, 26% of the Nova and Prevost buses are assembled at Spencer ARL.

There's other suppliers that Nova Bus has basically brought to Plattsburgh again, creating more job opportunities for people,” said Vermette.


IMPACT ON TOWN

Keep in mind, these internationally-recognized corporations are in a town with fewer than 12,000 people.

When we get a multi-million dollar property come in, a business, we don't get big bucks out of that,” said Bernie Bassett, Plattsburgh Town Supervisor.

Bassett says he welcomes new business but with each new arrival, comes demands on the town's infrastructure.

The infrastructure growth and repair is the result of the economic growth. There are more jobs, sales tax is up, payroll is up,” said Bassett.

But an increased property tax base is non-existent. Bassett says it was eliminated when commercial success made the sales tax revenue skyrocket years ago.

Sales tax is a big item for the town. The town of Plattsburgh does not have a general property tax. We maybe should. It would be predictable. It would be a lot less stress,” said Bassett.

To accommodate the growing industries, the town is expanding the natural gas line. It's working to improve roads and fund a multi-million dollar project to refurbish outdated water towers.


RECRUITING CHALLENGES

Those who do business in Plattsburgh recognize the challenges in a town this size.

Sometimes this area is a little bit difficult to recruit to because someone who hasn't been from this area looks around and says 'What is there to do'?" said Nova Bus' Jim Tooley.

Sometimes when they look at workforce, we're a relatively small county and they want to look at the future workforce,” said Paul Grasso.


ADVANCED MANUFACTURING INSTITUTE

That brings us back to the students at Clinton Community College.

The school is planning a $12.7 million dollar 'Advanced Manufacturing Institute' that will provide more classroom opportunities and more closely connect its students to employers. It's being funded by a SUNY 20/20 grant.

I would like to stay in the area, if I could because this is where I grew up,” said Conor Carrigan, a student.

The future of manufacturing made in Plattsburgh.