By L. Michael Treadwell
Manufacturing is growing in all corners of Oswego County, across many sectors and companies large and small. This growth is testament to the strength of manufacturing in the county. Below is a summary of several recent projects, including their impact through investment and job creation.
Novelis — Scriba
Over the last decade, Novelis has made several major investments, totaling more than $400 million with the expansion of the use of aluminum in automotive bodies. Presently, the company is in the early stages of its next major investment. The $130-plus million project to upgrade the plant will allow it to expand hot mill rolling capacity to 124,000 metric tons and reduce energy use and waste. The comprehensive improvements include adding six new gas fired annealing furnaces, upgraded motors to increase rolling speed, new coolant sprayers and a 72,000 square foot expansion. The project will help retain the over 1,000 employees at the facility and keep it competitive for years to come.
Huhtamaki — Fulton
In 2019, Huhtamaki expanded its capacity to manufacture 48-ounce ice cream containers by 25% through the addition of a fifth manufacturing line at its plant in the city of Fulton. Huhtamaki recently made facility improvements and acquired a new slitter machine that will be put into production later this fall. The slitter is used to cut large stock down into smaller sizes and it replaces older, outdated equipment. The equipment and building improvements were made with the assistance of Fulton Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) funds. The total project cost was approximately $2.1 million with $420,000 in DRI assistance.
In the mid-1990s, Sealrite announced plans to close the Fulton plant. However, a community effort, led by Operation Oswego County, Inc., local businesses and community leaders, was successful in convincing the company to keep the plant in Fulton. A few years later, Huhtamaki, a global manufacturing company headquartered in Finland, purchased the Sealrite company and all of their assets, including the Fulton plant. Today, Huhtamaki is the largest private employer in Fulton with over 500 employees.
HealthWay — Pulaski
HealthWay Family of Brands, known for its air purification systems, was a key player during the recent pandemic when indoor air quality came into focus. Although the pandemic has moved into a new phase and life is back to near normal, the need for indoor air filtration has continued to grow. As a result, HealthWay embarked on a project to expand an existing 9,100-sq.-ft. building into a 35,000-sq.-ft. facility. In addition, HealthWay is reorganizing its workflow and redistributing its workforce to better meets the needs of the company and its customers.
The facility was built with the assistance of experts in lean manufacturing for design and physical layout. By combining manufacturing, fabrication and assembly, distribution, warehousing and logistics into one building they will streamline their process and effectively support future growth. The $2.8 million project is expected to create 75 new jobs. This will double the workforce at HealthWay.
At the end of September 2021, HealthWay announced that it had sold the business to AE Industrial Partners of Boca Raton, Florida, a private equity firm that specializes in family-owned companies. This recent investment in Pulaski is a good indication of the company’s growth and sustainability.
Think Variant Inc. — Schroeppel
Think Variant Inc. is a start-up 3D additive manufacturing business concentrating around hardware sales and customized part printing services. They have developed the Vault, a large format 3D printer with capabilities to print objects up to 7 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet, which is the largest system in the world capable of printing with two heads independently (IDEX). This new advanced manufacturing company has created 5 new high tech jobs at the Oswego County Industrial Park in Schroeppel, NY with the potential for much more growth.
The business is collaborating with R&D Design and Associates and is working out of space at their facility with plans to expand both space and employment. Scott Antonacci is the CEO of Think Variant as well as owner of R&D Design and Associates. R&D Design and Associates has expanded their facilities to 10,000 square feet between two buildings at the industrial park to accommodate business growth and sustainability.
Design Concepts & Enterprises — Hastings
Design Concepts and Enterprises, founded in 2007, is one of the leading manufacturers of suture-attaching equipment serving clients worldwide. In 2009, Design Concepts moved their operation to Kline Road in Central Square. A few years later, they purchased the former Ace Hardware on Corporate Drive in Central Square. They planned to renovate the 14,800 square foot space beginning in late 2019. With the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the $800,000 project hit some delays but the project continued forward and today the company is fully occupying the new space and employs over 30.
Technologies — Constantia
United Wire Technologies, located on the north shore of Oneida Lake, has been steadily expanding since a catastrophic fire in 2012 destroyed their former location in Cleveland, NY. Due to growing pains, the company recently completed a 2,500 square foot storage facility to free up space on the manufacturing floor to make room for additional production equipment. United Wire Technologies has diversified their specialty wire product lines to serve customers in the industrial, defense, aeronautics, healthcare, and music sectors. They employ over 20 with plans to continue growing as we move out of the pandemic.
EJ Company — Schroeppel
A few years ago, EJ constructed a 71,300-sq.-ft. fabrication facility on a 15-acre site in the Oswego County Industrial Park in the town of Schroeppel. The $9.1 million expansion project for the company supported the creation and retention of 91 jobs. The facility also serves as EJ’s northeastern hub for logistics and distribution. EJ is the leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of access solutions for water, sewer, drainage, telecommunications and utility networks worldwide.
EJ adjusted its operations during the pandemic and maintained full employment through many creative adaptations. That creativity extends to solving problems for clients, as well as addressing global concerns. An example of this is its new STORMSURGE manhole frame and cover. It is designed to relieve storm surge pressure without the cover dislodging and then returning safely to the closed position once the surge has passed.
EJ continues to invest in new equipment and improvement projects. With the recent focus on Made in USA legislation, EJ is committed and well positioned to meet the demands that reshoring will bring.
Over the last few years, manufacturing in Oswego County has survived a pandemic and, in some cases, adapted and thrived. We expect this growth to continue, as there are a handful of pending manufacturing projects and a significant increase in interest in locating in Oswego County.