Beating out several larger states with far deeper pockets, Vermont scored an economic coup with the Sept. 3 announcement that Husky Injection Mold-ing Systems Ltd. will locate a facility in Milton, Vt. Ending months of speculative news reports, Husky President Robert Schad delivered the news New England-style, direct to the people. Schad traveled to Milton and addressed a town meeting at the high school gymnasium, packed with about 1,000 people. Construction could begin next summer, he said. Under state law, the government and citizens of Milton must first approve the facility.
Schad said Husky was attracted by Vermont's good quality of life and strong environmental regulation.
``Our goal is to create a model facility that incorporates the world's highest environmental and aesthetic standards and that will be in harmony with the natural beauty of Vermont,'' he said.
Initially, Husky will invest about $50 million to build the facility, which will employ several hundred. That could grow substantially over the next five to 10 years, he said in a telephone interview the day after the announcement from Husky headquarters in Bolton, Ontario.
Schad said Husky needs a major U.S. facility, since the United States remains its biggest market.
``We're running out of space in Bolton,'' he said. Husky earlier this year opened a parts distribution center in Buffalo, N.Y.
Schad said the Vermont industrial park at first will manufacture hot-runner systems. But he would not specify plans beyond that.
``We really plan from year-to-year what we need,'' Schad said. ``It's really hard to give you an exact outline of what's going to happen next, except that more of our technical business will be moving into Vermont while more of our packaging business will be focusing on Bolton.''
A source close to the deal said Husky also plans to make robots and other automation equipment in Milton. Husky has told local officials to expect staggered development during the next 10 years, said the source, who spoke on condition his name not be used.
Schad also has put to rest speculation that Husky's assembly operation in Pittsfield, Mass., would be moved to the new Vermont plant - at least anytime soon.
``We have made more or less a longer-term commitment to Pitts-field and we're expanding the operation,'' Schad said.
A few days before the Vermont announcement, Husky announc-ed in Pittsfield that it was extending to the year 2003 its lease for space at GE Plastics' mammoth Polymer Processing Development Center there. The firm also will boost employment by 20, to 75.
Vermont beat out other states that courted Husky. Pittsfield officials reportedly dangled an incentive package of $6 million to $8 million in front of Husky to build the facility there.
Schad declined to say what economic incentives Vermont offered. Local government officials could not be reached for comment. Milton, a small town of about 9,000 north of Burlington, Vt., was one of the first towns in Vermont to abolish the state's local-option tax for machinery and equipment. Vermont law also allows a deduction donation to environmental causes.
Vermont, with only about 500,000 residents, has tried to attract businesses that care about the environment and employees. Perhaps the state's best-known manufacturer is the maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
Schad said Vermont's strong environmental stance, plus small-town lifestyle, affected his decision more than any tax breaks.
``The whole environmental toughness in Vermont is not pushing us away, it's attracting us,'' he said.
Husky looked at fewer than 10 states before picking Vermont, he said.
Schad puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to the environment. This year, Husky is boosting the size of its annual environmental award to US$250,000, from US$150,000.
Schad told the Milton residents the Vermont facility, on 600 acres of land, will sport a natural, campus-like setting similar to Husky headquarters in Bolton and the firm's European facility in Dudelange, Luxembourg.
Schad also said Husky plans to continue operating its 40-employee plant making molds in Auburn, Mass.
Earlier this year, Husky said it was closing its plant in Weisbaden, Germany, which makes molds and hot runners. That work was relocated to Dudelange.