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EAST PROVIDENCE â€” The city got some great economic news last week when Planning Director Jeanne Boyle announced that igus Inc. has resurrected plans to build a 145,000-square-foot manufacturing warehouse and office facility on property the Rumford-based company owns behind the old Handy and Harmon building on Ferris Avenue.
Boyle told City Councilors that the company's plans to build the warehouse and office facility have been in the works since 1991 with company officials receiving preliminary approval from the Planning Board in 2008.
However, she said, the recession curtailed those plans and the project was put on hold until now.
"The company is moving forward to get the project underway and the hope is to have the new facility online within a year's time," Boyle said.
Founded in 1964 with a home base in Germany, igus manufactures cable carriers, continuous-flex cables, plastic plain bearings, spherical bearings and linear bearings, guides and slide tables. The company has locations in 27 countries and partners in another 33 countries and currently employs 1,600 people.
The company's 88,000-square-foot North American corporate headquarters and distribution facility is located on North Broadway in Rumford where it produces high velocity assembly and packaging of Energy Chain and iglide products; advanced harnessing operations with full testing capabilities for ReadyChain systems; and domestic manufacturing of select Energy Chain components, custom cables, custom and standard metal brackets and adapter plates.
City Manager Peter Graczykowski said there have already been roundtable discussions between company and city officials to get the permitting process on the fast track.
"This is an outgrowth of our outreach efforts to local businesses and one of the issues we discussed with business owners at the recent economic forum," Graczykowski told the council.
In what is believed to be the first session of its kind, the city hosted a business outreach forum on April 24 to address the concerns of local business owners and to provide them with resources they may not know about. The forum was a working discussion session where business owners were given access to a panel of city staff members who listened to their concerns and answered questions regarding business licenses, building and zoning regulations, economic development, and the city's new business permitting computer program.
The forum followed a similar business community outreach event hosted in East Providence earlier that month by Governor Lincoln Chafee on his tour to financially troubled cities and towns to hear from local small businesses and discuss ways to help them grow and create jobs.
Moderated by Keith Stokes, executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC), about 70 people attended the forum at City Hall where Chafee and a team made up of representatives from the RIEDC, U.S. Small Business Administration, Department of Labor and Training, Small Business Development Center and Ocean State Business Development Authority, reviewed state programs and initiatives developed for providing greater access to financing and credit for small businesses.
At that forum, city officials touted the ongoing economic development activity in the East Providence Waterfront District. Last month, for example, the East Providence Waterfront District Commission signed a lease with Eaton Corporation, which has relocated its manufacturing operations to 10 New Road. The partially vacant building was renovated by the city using $5 million in federal U.S. Economic Development Administration grants.
The renovations brought the building up to Eatonâ€™s technical manufacturing requirements and took about 12 months. Now, the commission is preparing to lease 145,000 of 340,000 square feet of the building to Eaton, an international technology company that supplies components to aeronautical and defense companies.
The company expects to add 50 more to its workforce in the next three to four years.
Another current waterfront initiative expected to provide immediate benefits to the city is the extension of Waterfront Drive, a $6 million project that will extend Waterford Drive north from Warren Avenue to Dexter Road and open the area up for the relocation of even more businesses. The project, paid for with Economic Assistance Development Grant and city bond, is halfway done and one month ahead of schedule.