PAWTUCKET — Is the city's manufacturing past coming back to life? Two companies that used to produce goods elsewhere in the state have recently purchased buildings and relocated to Pawtucket, bringing with them a combined total of about 50 jobs.
Philip Machine Co., a manufacturer of wire formed and stamped metal products, moved into a 21,000-square-foot building at 190 York Ave. in October and has been operating in its new location.
According to owner Kevin Vanier, the company had been renting space on Woonasquatucket Avenue in North Providence, but was looking to expand its operations. With the help of city officials, including Herb Weiss, Pawtucket's Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer, he was able to purchase the vacant building at 190 York Ave. A $15,000 low-interest loan from the Pawtucket Business Development Corporation gave him the ability to defray the relocation expenses.
Vanier said he had been looking around for a building to purchase for about three years. He had worked with Weiss, who kept taking him around to tour various properties in Pawtucket as they became available, but none proved suitable.
He almost bought a building in Johnston, but that sale fell through, and once again Weiss began contacting him about places in Pawtucket. Finally, the York Avenue property, which formerly housed Reetz Engineering, came on the market and it was just was Vanier was looking for.
Vanier said he is very pleased with the move, which brought about a dozen employees to Pawtucket. “We were renting before, and now this was a purchase. And we are all on one level, so its a better space and we're more organized.”
Established in 1979, Philip Machine's product line includes a line of custom-made racks, baskets, trays, accessories and metal plating. It also features some of the most commonly used stamped metal products such as d-rings, welded rings and other shapes. Their sales revenue total $1 to 2 million.
Off of the Industrial Highway at 1 Campbell St., Imperial Packaging, a former Woonsocket-based manufacturer, has settled in to a new 46,450-square foot home. The company has about 35 employees.
Established in 1947, Imperial Packaging produces folding cartons, packers, tags, inserts, headers and blister cards. The company services a large number of industries throughout New England, including computers and electronics, pharmaceutical and medical devices, food services, cosmetics and toiletries, crafts, lawn and garden, housewares and other consumer products.
According to Gregg Theriault, Financial and MIS Manager, Imperial Packaging's sales revenue totals $7 million.
According to recent data from Manufacturer's News, Rhode Island's industrial jobs have declined by 8.9 percent since the beginning of the recession. The state lost 6,337 manufacturing jobs from Dec. 2007 to Dec. 2009, as well as 216 manufacturers. The data shows that Rhode Island is currently home to 1,992 manufacturers employing 64,618 workers.
Pawtucket is ranked second behind Providence for the state's highest amount of manufacturing employment. The city accounts for 7,402 industrial jobs, and is down 4.5 percent over the past two years, while Providence, with 9,623 industrial jobs, declined 10.4 percent over the same period.
Manufacturer's News reports that employment in the jewelry sector experienced the sharpest decline, down 27.6 percent over the past two years. As a result, industrial machinery and equipment has overtaken jewelry manufacturing as the state's largest sector. The state's top sector remains metal fabricating, with 6,912 jobs, down 10.6 percent over the two-year period.
The manufacturing publication did report a few bright spots within the two-year period, including the expansion of Aspen Aerogels, a maker of insulation products, in East Providence and the growth of Concordia's medical supply plant in Warwick.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said the arrival of two manufacturing companies is, obviously, a positive for Pawtucket. “We're trying to get all types of new businesses into the city,” he said. “Clearly, it is the job of this administration to be more business-friendly.”
To that end, Grebien said that he and his administration will be paying close attention to a recently completed consultant's analysis that looked at the city's zoning and code enforcement issues, as well as parking, signage and traffic patterns in an effort to attract more economic development. “We will see what things we can change immediately to streamline the process. Other things we will phase in,” said Grebien. “We want them (potential businesses and developers) to take Pawtucket seriously.”
Weiss added that while Pawtucket still seeks to re-build itself as a creative community of artists and artisans, it still hasn't lost its roots in manufacturing. Smaller-sized manufacturers are an important part of its tax base.
“Pawtucket is a great place for a manufacturer to operate from because of its affordability, proximity to I-95 and closeness to both Providence and Boston, noted Weiss. “We are so pleased to see two new manufacturers coming in to the community.”