NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Senior Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- Local and state economic development officials joined area business owners earlier this week on a trip to a massive chip fabrication plant in nearby New York to explore ways local businesses and students can benefit.
Bennington County Industrial Corp. Executive Director Peter Odierna said the Tuesday visit to GlobalFoundries in Malta was an initial meeting and further visits will take place to help businesses match their capabilities with the company's needs.
"The takeaway was extremely positive. They were very gracious hosts," he said. "Certainly, the scale of the operation is enormous. Given the fact that we're (close) to them, there's a reasonable probability we can see our local businesses capitalize on that project."
Representatives from the Vermont Department of Economic Development and Michael Harrington, Bennington's economic and community development director, participated.
"This trip hopefully marks the beginning of a trend where Bennington-based companies are able to collaborate and share their expertise with regional-located, industry leaders such as Global Foundries," Harrington said. "Vermont will never be able to offer the billions of dollars given to GlobalFoundries in incentives, but we can certainly capitalize on the addition of these large-scale employers to surrounding markets, and tap into their need for ancillary services.
GlobalFoundries opened about four years ago and has already had an impact in nearby New York, with new firms sprouting to help support the plant and its more than 2,000 employees. Odierna said that outward growth should also reach Bennington and southern Vermont.
"The impact of this project is going to be felt throughout the Northeast, so we're paying close attention to those developments," he said.
Local companies, including United McGill and Peckham Industries, helped supply materials when the plant was constructed. But local advanced technology companies may have the ability to help support GlobalFoundries' operations.
"We hope that as they really ramp up to full production capacity that we'd have some companies like K&E Plastics, Abacus (Automation) and Battenkill Technologies that can leverage their core expertise to provide some services to the company," Odierna said.
K&E is a plastics machining company that produces parts similar to those used in GlobalFoundries' chip manufacturing, Odierna said. Abacus is able to create custom robotics that could aid in the company's manufacturing, and Battenkill Technologies creates automated inspection devices that could also benefit GlobalFoundries, he said.
Representatives from those companies were able to meet with Wendy Nicosen, GlobalFoundries' director of global supply. Odierna said he will be provide the company with a "cheat sheet" of the local companies' capabilities so it can be matched with any potential needs.
"The hope and the goal is that these opportunities will materialize which will allow them to invest and hire more folks," Odierna said.
The plant could also provide opportunities for local students. Jeannie Jenkins, coordinator of academic services at Community College of Vermont's Bennington Campus, also made the trip. She will be looking to find ways to help local students embrace education opportunities offered by the company.
GlobalFoundries has worked with students of all ages since opening, Odierna said. He said Jenkins will be following up to arrange another visit, which "will have some sort of education theme to it."
"One of the things that they did mention is that they are very active with the school systems in and around their plant. They host tours of students all the time ranging from elementary school to high school, and certainly the colleges are deeply involved."
The success of GlobalFoundries could also be a boon to other area businesses. Local officials on the trip met with two company officials who are Texas natives, but have embraced activities offered in southern Vermont, including skiing at Bromley Mountain and shopping in Manchester.
"You're seeing that multiplier effect happen in terms of these folks looking at Vermont in terms of the amenities that we have to offer -- skiing, shopping, dining and what have you. We hope that turns into a trend," Odierna said.
Contact Neal P. Goswami at email@example.com, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami