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Development Corp. Helps With New Facility for LEDdynamics

November 21, 2017

ValleyNews.com

The Green Mountain Economic Development Corp. is leading an effort to keep Vermont lighting company LEDdynamics from relocating its business outside the state with a plan to build a new manufacturing facility in town for the Randolph-based company.

[VRGA member] LEDdynamics, designs and manufactures light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, for energy-efficient lighting systems. Fueled by the demand for such systems, the company is in need of a bigger facility to accommodate its growth and is being courted by other states, according to its president, Bill McGrath.

In order to prevent the company — one of Vermont’s relatively few providers of well-paying tech jobs — from moving out of state, the Green Mountain Economic Development Corp. has put together a $4.5 million proposal to build and own a 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which LEDdynamics would occupy.

The company “has been looking for a new space for a year and a half, and we want to help them keep the company in Vermont,” said Bob Haynes, executive director of the White River White Junction-based regional economic development corporation tasked with fostering business and job growth within a 30-town region in north central Vermont.

The plant would be built on a site on Beanville Road behind Freedom Foods, about a mile south from downtown Randolph, currently owned by Russell “Lucky” Dimmick Jr., owner of Lucky’s Trailer Sales.

LEDdynamics, founded in Rochester, Vt., in 2000, relocated to Randolph in 2004, where it now occupies a former Ethan Allen furniture factory on Hull Road. The company has 65 employees, but needs space to bring in an additional 40 employees, McGrath said in an interview.

It recently acquired a lighting fixtures company in Connecticut and is in the process of “absorbing” those employees into its operation in Vermont. “We are running out of room,” McGrath said.

 
The company has strong links with Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center — where McGrath taught before joining LEDdynamics not long after its founding — but also is known for hiring and training students right out of high school. The company is regarded as a prime example of the highly skilled light manufacturer that both lawmakers and economists agree is crucial — but often lacking — if Vermont wants to prevent young workers from leaving the state.

To finance the land purchase and the design and building of the facility, the economic development corporation is seeking $3.5 million loan from the Vermont Economic Development Authority, in addition to a $1 million Housing and Urban Development grant administered through Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The plant would be the third manufacturing facility in the state built and owned by the economic development corporation after the Pompanoosuc Mills facility in East Thetford and Advanced Illumination in Rochester.

A previous plan to build a light industrial business park and tech incubator near Sykes Mountain Avenue in White River Junction fell apart in 2016 after the hoped-for anchor tenant, food distributor Provisions International, decided to build its new facility in West Lebanon instead.

McGrath said other states “to the east and to the west” have been heavily courting his company, offering strong incentives to relocate there. The wooing states say “ ‘We’ve got an empty 25,000-(square-foot) plant all ready to go,’ ” McGrath said.

In order to stay in Vermont, McGrath said, the company needed “a process that allows us to open a factory sooner rather than later, as well as some assistance with financing. … We want to stay in Vermont.”

“I just want to make lights,” he said. “We want to stay here. But I don’t really want to own a new building.”

The proposal would provide all that and more by removing the burden to design and build its own manufacturing facility from the company. Haynes is in the process of evaluating a design services firm for the project and has already engaged DEW Construction, of Williston, Vt., to manage the pre-construction and construction phase of the project.
Haynes said a hearing on the grant application is scheduled for February. If the approvals come through, he expects to break ground in the spring of 2018 and have the project completed and ready for occupancy in “early 2019.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.



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