Empty factory to hum again

Flanders Corp. buys Kaz plant in G’port; 200 jobs expected

GREENPORT — In heat reminiscent of a factory blast furnace, good news for local manufacturing jobs was announced Tuesday on the blacktop outside of Kaz, Inc., on Route 9.

Roy Brown (R-Germantown), chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, told some 36 local dignitaries and the press that Flanders Corporation, based in Washington, NC, will purchase the Kaz buildings and hire workers in an expansion of its manufacturing business.

Mr. Brown said Flanders will employ at least 150 workers to start and as many as 200 once its operations are in full swing. The company designs, manufactures, markets and distributes commercial and residential air filters and related products. Flanders, which plans to relocate here from North Carolina, describes itself as the largest U.S. manufacturer of such products.

Formally and informally, all present credited Kenneth J. Flood, county planning and economic development commissioner, with successfully wooing Flanders to Greenport. The timeline, said Mr. Flood, is a purchase closing “this week or early next week,” a job fair at the facility “probably the third week in July” and production start-up in September, with a grand opening for the community.

At its height, Kaz employed between 450 and 500 people. Nevertheless, Mr. Flood told The Columbia Paper that Flanders will use all 195,000 square feet of the Kaz buildings. The jobs offered will cover a wide range, from a human resources manager to assembly workers, he said. These last are basically “unskilled” jobs that the corporation trains workers for, possibly with the assistance of Columbia-Greene Community College, said Mr. Flood.

Flanders needed to be in the Northeast, Mr. Flood told the group, to serve its customer base: “It’s shipping a lot of air.” But the Columbia County advocates had to be “aggressive,” he said. Flanders considered facilities in Delaware and Pennsylvania before Greenport won the day.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Flood confirmed that at a meeting Tuesday morning of the county Industrial Development Agency (of which he is executive director), the IDA passed an inducement resolution to consider two requests from Flanders: for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement that would reduce the property tax on the building by 25% for 10 years, and for exemption from mortgage tax and sales tax on equipment. The requests are “standard,” said Mr. Flood.

That’s not all the help Flanders will get from government. Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a press release Tuesday saying that while the company will invest approximately $7 million in the facility, Empire State Development (ESD) will provide Flanders with $500,000 in Excelsior Jobs Program tax benefits over a 10-year period.

“Flanders Corporation will turn an empty factory into a vibrant workplace, creating 180 jobs and making products that will be sold around the world,” the governor said in his release.

The Kaz building had been on the market for about two years, he said, “typical for that kind of building,” and Flanders is paying about $3.2 million for it.

The release from the state says that the company, which was founded in 1950 in Flanders, NY, designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes air filters and related products. It has 12 locations worldwide. The company’s website is www.flanderscorp.com.

As the short press conference continued in the midday heat Tuesday, individual remarks became briefer. Invited to the podium, Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera said simply, “Three ingredients made this happen: an attractive building, priced right; a business-friendly state led by a business-friendly Governor Andrew Cuomo; and the workforce we offer.” 

(Even more) help wanted

GREENPORT – County Board of Supervisors Chairman Roy Brown (R-Germantown) took the opportunity of Tuesday’s press conference on the sale of the Kaz plant to review other projects that he, Ken Flood, the county’s economic development point man, and the board members of county Industrial Development Agency and the Columbia Economic Development Corporation have been involved with for the last 18 months. They are:

* Groupe Eurial, a global dairy company that will be moving its headquarters to Livingston, bringing approximately 50 jobs

* RISA, a metal fabrication company that has announced it is coming to New Lebanon, offering up to 50 jobs there

* Greenport Crossings, which has begun breaking ground on Route 66, has said it will have approximately 100 jobs once it is completed.

Two entities are expanding their current operations in the county: Camphill Village with its new Camphill Ghent facility, with an additional 40 jobs, and BAC Sales, also in Ghent, with an additional 20 jobs.

In addition to official efforts, three businesses found the county on their own: etsy.com, an online market website for the sale of handmade items, is setting up part of its operation in Hudson, creating approximately 50 jobs; TJ Maxx (20 jobs) and Kohl’s department store (60 jobs) are now open in Greenport.

In development are two new Hannaford grocery stores, one each in New Lebanon and Livingston. Each store will employ 50 people.

Not all of these jobs will be full-time, and pay scale and benefits will likely vary substantially. But these signs of growth follow several years when companies in the county were shutting down operations or, in the case of Kaz, moving major parts of their business out of the country. — Debby Mayer

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