G.S. Precision finishes $17M expansion

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BRATTLEBORO — In early 2015, it looked like longtime Brattleboro manufacturer G.S. Precision Inc. was set to leave Vermont.

But a team of local, state and federal officials crafted an elaborate financing package to prevent that from happening. Not only did G.S. Precision stay, but the company has just put the finishing touches on a $17 million expansion.

On Thursday, officials and G.S. Precision executives gathered to celebrate that expansion and its substantial economic impacts: There were more than 300 jobs retained, and there are about 100 new jobs expected.

"It illustrates the type of public-private partnership that will strengthen Windham County's economic future," Gov. Phil Scott said. "It's so important as a region, as we continue to feel the effects of Vermont Yankee closing and the jobs that were lost."

Founded in 1958, G.S. Precision makes machined components for customers including the aircraft, medical and automotive industries. Parts for commercial jet engines and defense systems/missile guidance are the company's two biggest product lines, Chief Executive Officer Norm Schneeberger said.

G.S. Precision also is involved in a host of other activities, including a relatively new product: The company is making fly-fishing reels for Vermont-based outdoor retailer Orvis.

But when it came time to expand a few years ago, Schneeberger decided the company his father had founded should move across the Connecticut River.

"We had a building designed in New Hampshire," Schneeberger recalled. "Then (Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.) kind of swooped in and got us thinking again about Vermont."

Staffers from the credit corp and Brattleboro town offices joined forces with state officials including then-Gov. Peter Shumlin and then-Commerce and Community Development Secretary Pat Moulton. Vermont's congressional delegation also got involved.

They came up with a mix of grants, loans and tax credits for G.S. Precision. A key feature was a $2 million loan from the Windham County Economic Development Program, which consists of money from a shutdown settlement agreement between state officials and Vermont Yankee owner Entergy.

It was the result of "the collaborative efforts of a multitude of partners," said Adam Grinold, Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. executive director.

While there were many people involved in the project, Grinold's organization was singled out several times at Thursday's event. "Without your efforts, this would not have happened," Schneeberger said to BDCC officials.

G.S. Precision broke ground for the project in late 2015, and the now-finished expansion has resulted in an additional 14,000 square feet of space at the company's headquarters, 101 John Seitz Drive in the Exit One Industrial Park.

The company added another 7,000 square feet of new space at its second facility about a half-mile up the road. The project also included renovations and new equipment.

"The market that we're in has a ton of opportunities right now," Schneeberger said. "(The expansion project) has allowed us to basically take advantage of those opportunities to be able to supply the volumes that are needed."

The expansion is expected to bring an additional 100 jobs to the area. The company has added 68 jobs since the project began, "so we're well on our way," Schneeberger said.

Finding a sufficient number of qualified workers has been a problem for Vermont manufacturers. But a cooperative venture between G.S. Precision and Vermont Technical College may alleviate some of those concerns as the company expands.

The customized certificate program, which the college refers to as an "advanced manufacturing technician apprenticeship," consists of a dozen students participating in work training at G.S. Precision and taking on-site classes from Vermont Tech faculty.

"It's a fantastic example of an employer-college partnership," said Vermont Tech spokeswoman Amanda Chaulk.

Mike Faher reports for the Brattleboro Reformer, VTDigger, and The Commons. He can be contacted at mfaher@vtdigger.org.

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