NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Bennington County is faring well economically and drawing interest from companies, despite up-and-down headlines from Europe and around the world, local officials say.
Bennington County Industrial Corp. Executive Director Peter Odierna said local companies have largely weathered the economic downturn and sluggish recovery. "Manufacturing activity here is still relatively firm," he said.
BCIC is now actively working to expand a local company and assisting two outside companies that are considering Bennington as a site, according to Odierna.
"We have entertained an Israeli company that is considering opening up a location here in Bennington. That would further develop that cluster," he said.
There are currently four Israel-based companies in Bennington -- Plasan North America, Plasan Carbon Composites, Vishay and JBM Sherman Carmel. Odierna said the company considering Bennington is manufacturing related, and has a significant presence in Israel.
The second company is currently located in New York. Both companies could take advantage of state incentives, Odierna said.
Additionally, Mace has relocated part of its operation in Texas to Bennington, bringing a handful of jobs to the area, according to Odierna.
Meanwhile, BCIC is engaged in an effort to expand a foreign trade zone in Brattleboro to Bennington. Odierna said he is working with the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce and others to see if there is local interest in the program.
A foreign trade zone allows companies to important components into the trade zone without customs tariffs. The components are not subject to tariffs if they leave the foreign trade zone to be exported out of the country. It could provide a cost savings for some local companies, Odierna said.
There are also discussions with a natural gas company to introduce that fuel to the Bennington market, which could provide further cost savings for local businesses.
Meanwhile, Bennington Economic and Community Development Director Michael Harrington said there are clear signs of an improving economy in other sectors, too.
"I think no matter what the sector, they're all intertwined at some level. When you start talking manufacturing, that can be the driver for a lot of other things," he said.
A sustained manufacturing base provides "a ripple effect that goes all the way down to the individual," Harrington said. In recent weeks, a new fish fry restaurant and a spa have opened. And a new car dealership is on the way.
"I'm very optimistic about the types of businesses I see, and the people that are starting businesses," he said.
Still, Harrington said officials must continue pushing economic development in the region.
"In terms of the climate, I would say relative to the rest of the country, Bennington is pretty healthy," he said. "That doesn't mean, by any means, that we're out of the woods, or anything like that."