G.S. Precision begins $17 million expansion project
BRATTLEBORO — G.S. Precision's expansion is official after speeches were made and shovels hit the ground.
"We are in a global economy. It's different today than it was 20 or 30 or 40 years ago," G.S. Precision President and CEO Norm Schneeberger told a crowd gathered Monday afternoon in the company's facility on John Seitz Drive. "Because of that, we need to be better than everybody else."
The company will continue to be competitive as it keeps investing in its processes, he said, calling his manufacturing and engineering teams the best out there.
For the last 57 years, G.S. Precision has manufactured high-precision machined components and assemblies for commercial and military aircraft engines, power generation turbines, defense systems, thermal imaging devices and other commercial industries. While its corporate headquarters are in Brattleboro, the company has manufacturing facilities in New Hampshire, Mexico and California.
"Today is clearly a big day for G.S. Precision, the entire Brattleboro region and the state of Vermont," said Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation Executive Director Adam Grinold, who was a major player in keeping the manufacturing company in Vermont. "Last April, we learned G.S. Precision was encountering significant growing pains."
Markets related to aircraft engine and power generation turbine were the main driver behind the G.S. Precision's decision to expand. The company was looking at moving to a different property and a site in New Hampshire seemed a viable option at one point.
"Bringing it anywhere other than the Windham (County) region was not an option for the BDCC," Grinold said.
His group had meetings with town, state and company officials. And federal, state and local programs were combined in an incentive package to retain the business. Assistance was found through TD Bank and Vermont Economic Development Authority financing, the Community Development Block Grant program, New Market Tax Credits, Vermont Employment Growth Incentives and the Windham County Economic Development Fund, which was created to aid with job losses associated with the closure of the Vernon-based nuclear plant Vermont Yankee. Loan and tax stabilization programs through the town of Brattleboro also lent a hand.
G.S. Precision already has 300 jobs. But a new addition to the facility and new equipment — with a price tag of $17 million — is expected to increase that number by 100.
"This is so good," said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as he acknowledged the company's commitment to providing good paying jobs. "It is important. I got to tell you. Merry Christmas."
When Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Pat Moulton told Gov. Peter Shumlin that G.S. Precision was considering moving out of state, Shumlin said he "got in the car immediately" with Moulton to meet with Schneeberger.
"We said, 'Listen, what can we do to make sure that Vermont, Windham County, is the most competitive place for you to grow jobs?' And it's really extraordinary," Shumlin said. "Pat's (Moulton) dad (Elbert) "Al" Moulton and Norm's (Schneeberger) dad George started this Industrial Park. They had the vision."
The multi-generational project was an example of how economic work is never done, said U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont.
"This is a project that means a great deal to us," said Brattleboro Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Kate O'Connor. "It's great for the state and it's great for the region but I want you to know how much it means to the town of Brattleboro."
Thanking officials gathered at the ceremony, Shumlin said Windham County has a bright future.
"Thank you G.S. Precision for making products that are outsmarting the world in terms of the engineering they're doing," he added. "Congratulations."
As both an independent business owner and a leader in his field, Schneeberger said he did not view government intervention as "something necessarily conducive" to running a successful business.
"No offense," he told politicians sitting behind him before mentioning how the project showed how local, state and federal funds could be used to help a private enterprise grow.
Moulton said she saw Schneeberger was a little skeptical during initial talks about keeping the business in Vermont. He had told her he would make the decision that was right for the company.
"You are why advanced manufacturing and innovation is alive and well in Vermont," Moulton told Schneeberger and his father. "We are here to support you... I can't wait to do it (expand) again in another few years!"
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