AUBURN — Currier Plastics President John Currier praises his company’s employees for meeting rising demand even as New York state worked to mold an aid package so the manufacturer could expand at its increasingly crowded Auburn home.
“I have to credit my guys for squeezing more and more equipment in,” Currier says. “We don’t have the proper layout right now. We don’t think we’re operating nearly as efficiently as we will in the new building, but we had to do what we had to do to deliver for the customer.”
The custom blow-molding and injection-molding manufacturer held an official groundbreaking for a 55,000-square-foot expansion on Nov. 29 — although crews started construction about a month before that, according to Currier. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony, which punctuated a year of Currier Plastics trying to secure enough state aid for it to consider expanding at its Auburn headquarters viable.
Aid is going to a $21 million expansion project that will come close to doubling Currier Plastics’ headquarters at 101 Columbus St. to 120,000 square feet. The project consists of $8 million in building and infrastructure work and $13 million in new equipment to be purchased over five years.
Currier Plastics is financing the project using its own cash and funding from First Niagara Bank. However, wetland and access issues made developing its current site expensive, and the company sought state aid to make on-site expansion as economically attractive as relocation.
The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council recommended $1.75 million toward the expansion last year — $1 million in Excelsior tax credits and a $750,000 capital grant. But when the state awarded funding under the 2011 regional-council initiative, it included only the tax credits.
That left Currier Plastics seeking to close a $750,000 funding gap. It put its expansion plans on hold and considered the possibility of in-state or out-of-state relocations.
The company had to spend about $200,000 to temporarily rig its existing space to keep up with increasing customer orders, Currier says. It also invested about $1.2 million into new equipment that had to be shoehorned into the facility.
Executives wondered whether it was wise to keep waiting for state funding, Currier adds.
“There were several times when we thought, ‘Did we make the right decision?’ ” he says. “ ‘Should we spend more? Should we stop the project now?’ But it never got to the point where we seriously considered it.”
Then in May of this year, Empire State Development gave the project a $750,000 Economic Transformation Grant. And company officials started to move forward with their on-site expansion.
Currier Plastics initially hoped to have the 55,000-square-foot expansion completed by Nov. 1. That didn’t turn out to be possible, so the company is now aiming to have the building ready for use by the end of February.
“There was probably a two- to three-month delay where we knew the news was good and we couldn’t take it to the bank yet,” Currier says. “I’ll throw some credit toward New York State, because when those times started looking a little dark, we contacted people and they said, ‘Hang in there, you’ll be happy in the end.’ And we are.”
Syracuse–based VIP Architectural Associates, PLLC and VIP Structures, Inc. are responsible for designing and building the addition. Currier Plastics anticipates adding 50 full-time employees over five years once the expansion is complete. The company currently employs 100 full-time staff members and 20 temporary workers. Temporary workers will be first in line for full-time employment positions, according to Currier.
Currier Plastics generated $24 million in revenue in 2011, which was up 17 percent from the previous year. It is projecting a revenue increase of 12 percent in 2012 and targets 15-percent growth in 2013.
“From a facility standpoint and an equipment standpoint, it’s going to be easier to grow,” Currier says. “Having the facility will allow us to add equipment, and we tend to add equipment as we get new sales.”
Contact Seltzer at email@example.com