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Eyes on the jobs at high-tech factory opening

Before cutting the ribbon on a new, green factory in Conklin, N.Y., Impress Group CEO Francis Labbé shared this anecdote.

Passing through immigration at Newark airport on his way to the ceremony, Labbé recounted, he was asked by an immigration officer what sort of business he was in.

"Normally, I answer packaging. But this time I said 'can-making. We are making cans.'"

"Making cans here in the U.S.?" Labbé says the officer asked. "That's amazing, a new factory in the U.S. I didn't know we had any manufacturing left in this country."

It's become hard to ignore that manufacturing is on its way out of the US in search of cheaper labor costs. That's made the incentives game, to recruit domestic manufacturing, a big business. The Danish firm that'll be making easy-open lids in Conklin, Impress, received $2.1 million in local, state and federal funds in grants, loans and tax breaks, to locate the highly mechanized lid factory in upstate New York.

State officials think the investment is worth it, because this company's operations are billed to create 65 jobs for highly skilled technicians - and officials are hoping those jobs will translate to high wages and local tax receipts. The incentives package works out to be about $33,000 dollars per job.

It's possible that those 65 positions aren't the only job creation that will come out of Impress.  The factory building has space available to double operations. The highly mechanized plant can produce about 1.4 billion easy open lids a year. It'll begin operating full time at the beginning of January, staffed by a slim crew of trained technicians.

Plant Manager Mike Shelhamer explains, "We use a lot of robotics, those type of applications, and it’s probably the fastest steel-making end lines that I know of in the world."


Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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