Aerospace Initiatives Soar in New Hampshire
03 Aug, 2014
By Rachel Duran
The New Hampshire Division of Economic Development is focused on augmenting the advanced manufacturing clusters in the state, particularly the largest, aerospace manufacturing. The sector is spearheaded by a new to the world composites manufacturing product, for use in aircraft engine parts, which is being developed at the co-located Albany International Corp. and Safran project in Rochester. The grand opening for the plant was held in March.
The companies are building a sister plant in Commercy, France. “The companies’ officials expect a large number of 737 aircraft engines will come from here or the sister plant during the next 30 years,” says Karen Pollard, economic development manager, Rochester Economic Development Department.
Since the announcement of the joint project, the state has launched the New Hampshire Aerospace and Defense Export Consortium, and most recently the Seacoast Aerospace Initiative. The consortium has 75 members from among the state’s 300 companies connected with the sectors. In December, the consortium entered a memorandum of understanding with Aero Montreal, establishing preferred relations between the groups, and encouraging collaboration in a variety of areas, such as developing the supply chain.
The Seacoast Aerospace Initiative is an outreach effort to attract Quebec-based aerospace companies and suppliers to the state, and to encourage collaboration in areas such as research and education.
When it comes to international partnerships, New Hampshire’s exports increased 22 percent in 2013, which led the nation. “This is huge for us,” says Carmen Lorentz, director, New Hampshire Division of Economic Development. The Office of International Commerce is located within the division. “We have received a few grants over the past couple of years and use those to support companies in attending trade shows, and helping them pay for the cost of doing market research and on the ground business development in other countries.”
Lorentz says New Hampshire is investing much more in international trade efforts, with the governor leading delegations on more trade missions. Gov. Maggie Hassan was scheduled to lead a delegation to Turkey at the end of June, one of the state’s leading trading partners.
Industries and Innovations
In addition to a thriving aerospace and defense sector, New Hampshire is well suited to support the biomedical sector, and logistics activities.
Dartmouth College’s medical center is underway with several biomedical research initiatives. Lorentz says the formation of medical device startups are on the increase, centered in the state’s upper valley region.
“The logistics sector is also looking at New Hampshire more,” Lorentz says. “UPS will open up a 600,000 square-foot facility in Londonderry next June that will support Pratt & Whitney in moving parts and supplies. FedEx will open a new ground center early next year.” The companies are attracted by an industrial park development taking place near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, which is one of the busiest airports in the region.
In Rochester, Pollard notes the community has a strong composites related cluster. In addition to the Albany-Safran project, the community is home to Lydall Inc., which conducted a $5 million expansion, which they are calling a mini-mill. The company produces composite materials for treated paper and filtration media. Lydall has also purchased another company with eight locations, increasing its portfolio to 13 locations. “Lydall can do short-runs for specialty filtration projects,” Pollard says. “It can enhance a company’s innovation to get their hands on a specialty textile material to use in an application they are still perfecting.”
Advanced manufacturing companies also do well in Dover. The community is home to firms involved in the development of computer point of purchase systems, production of high-tech retention fabrics for organizations such as NASA, robotics companies, and medical equipment companies.
In addition, Dover is home to the second-largest facility for Liberty Mutual Insurance, which employees 4,000 workers, says Dan Barufaldi, director, Dover Business and Industrial Development Authority.
Talent and Education
“We are the fastest growing city in New Hampshire and have one of the youngest median age populations, as well as one of the highest educational attainments in the state — 32.5 percent of our residents over age 25 have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree,” Barufaldi says.
The University of New Hampshire is located 3.5 miles from Dover, providing companies with access to technical expertise and resources. The community is also within access of the Albany-Safran’s composites training facility located at Great Bay Community College. “The facility is the first of its kind in the country so it is getting interest from other companies in other states about possibly sending people here to train,” Lorentz says.
Pollard says the college offers six week training programs to associate’s degree programs in manufacturing and advanced composites. She says companies donated the equipment used at the facility. “The center has equipment for other types of manufacturing, particularly in quality controls, which is an area where additional skills training was needed in this area,” Pollard says. “We are also looking to add another two-year program on top of the associate’s degree program that can be done as an internship at Albany-Safran in conjunction with a university partner.”
The Community College System of New Hampshire offers campuses focused on specific advanced manufacturing industries, for instance, robotics in the southern part of the state and welding in the northern part of the state. Under the AMPed NH initiative, community college leaders conducted outreach in their communities to determine what manufacturers needed in regard to training. Lorentz says the first graduates of this year-old initiative have experienced a 100 percent placement rate because companies are eager to hire these skilled workers.
Lorentz says the state’s community college system received a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor a couple of years ago to use in retooling advanced manufacturing programs at all seven campuses.
On the local level, Dover’s officials have created BizEd Connect, the result of advanced manufacturing officials and public school officials in the community working to increase the success rates of entry level employees out of high school; the sector was experiencing a 60 percent to 70 percent failure rate when hiring from this demographic.
A curriculum focusing on career technical communication skills, interviewing skills, resume development and other aspects, has been developed. Some of the principals from area companies performed adjunct teaching duties. A paid internship program was created where some companies established programs at the career technical center. Barufaldi says the program is entering its third series of interns, with 12 participants in the program.
Barufaldi says Dover’s economic development stakeholders work hard to attract and retain industries, as well as solve challenges they may experience during the growth process. In addition to the workforce initiatives, Barufaldi would like to increase the community’s land and buildings inventory. His organization is a nonprofit, which gives him the flexibility to work on land acquisitions.
In Rochester, the city recently approved its annual budget, which included $25 million for capital improvements. “We are expanding water and sewer and doing as much infrastructure as we can in the areas where the commercial and industrial development is going,” Pollard says. “We have a solid foundation for businesses to grow. We are an international community that has the ability to compete at many levels for business.”
“One of the things that distinguishes New Hampshire is the fact that our government is small,” Lorentz says. “We have had instances where a company reaches out to us and we are able to provide information or address the issues they have before they even get a call back from another state. To companies, even though there may be other areas where we do not do as well, we can make projects happen much faster and that is a huge advantage.”
Barufaldi says once businesses cut the list of possible expansion locations down to three, Dover will satisfy most or all of the business requirements. “We do very well if we make the short list because of the balance of business affordability and quality of life,” he says. “This is important to advanced manufacturing businesses that have to attract educated, technical or executive type people who want access to a good education system, good health care, and a low crime rate.”
Quality of life amenities include an infill project of the First Street city parking lot, which will feature two new buildings offering commercial, office and residential spaces.
Dover has also added 120 new apartments in the renovated Cocheco Falls Millworks. “We have a little more than 300 new people working and living in the downtown,” Barufaldi says. What’s more, in the last five years, the commercial area has added 60 new businesses. “We are a bit more affordable than some of the other major cities in New Hampshire,” Barufaldi says. “We are an hour from the mountains, 30 minutes from the beach, and halfway between Portland, Maine, and Boston.”
Pollard says Rochester has experienced an upswing in commercial development in order to serve new businesses and existing company expansions, as well as an influx in population. A new 300,000-square-foot shopping center is under construction, which will include a movie theater and a grocery store. “We are also working to attract a new hotel with conference room space to locate near our industrial area,” Pollard says.
Illustration by Stuart Miles at Free Digital Photo.net