Quebec company to set up shop in St. Albans

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(Host) A Quebec company that makes electrical transformers will open a factory in St. Albans and hire at least 45 people within three years.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, Franklin County has fared pretty well in the current recession.

(Sneyd) The head of economic development in Franklin County finds himself in an interesting position.

(Smith) “The county has no vacant buildings per se that we can attract quality manufacturers like this.”

(Sneyd) Tim Smith is executive director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation.

He helped lure a Canadian company to the last big industrial building in the St. Albans industrial park, a former foundry.

Smith says the development corporation is debating whether to build in the hope that another company will be interested.

(Smith) “We own land and whether we take the jump and at least put down a slab so we could put up a building fairly quickly, that would be the discussion we would have to have.”

(Sneyd) For now, Smith’s group is helping Transformateur BEMAG of Farnham, Quebec, open its new factory.

BEMAG has formed an American subsidiary, Vermont Transformer, to build dry electrical transformers. That’s equipment that converts high voltage electricity to a lower level that powers homes and businesses.

(Roberge) "Here we see a one-phase transformer, aluminum windings. So that’s a  typical dry-type transformers. The application is very popular. That is one of the biggest seller.”

(Sneyd) Christian Roberge is the president of the new subsidiary. Three samples of the company’s transformers sit on pallets.

Otherwise, the factory floor is pretty empty. Robot-powered equipment will be moved in soon to wind the wire that goes into transformers.

(sound of transformer)

(Sneyd) Along an exterior wall sits an old transformer, cooled by oil. Roberge is eager to install one of his company’s own, air-cooled models.

(Roberge) "That’s not an energy efficient one, so we’re going to change it, for sure.”

(Sneyd) Roberge expects to hire 18 to 20 people in the next year at wages starting at $13 an hour. Within three years, he expects employment at least to more than double.

State economic development experts say that, even in a recession, they’ve found manufacturers similar to BEMAG interested in relocating to Vermont.

Kevin Dorn is Vermont’s commerce secretary.

(Dorn) "The governor was with a company just last week out of Canada, out of Quebec. He led our team in discussion with a defense contractor out of Quebec that is looking at Vermont. … They’re very likely, I think to come here. I’d say better than 50-50 I felt at the end of that conversation.”

(Sneyd) But Vermont has to offer incentives to compete with other states. Vermont Transformer got $373,000 in grants and training money and $718,000 in low-interest financing.

Vermont Transformer says that assistance helped Vermont edge out New York when the company decided where to locate.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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