East Greenwich, R.I. - Richard M. Scibelli stood inside a vacant manufacturing building Wednesday morning, welcomed by those who helped make possible the Connecticut high-tech battery maker's upcoming move to Rhode Island.
By next spring, that cavernous manufacturing plant will house Scibelli's Yardney Technical Products, thanks to a financing deal involving a public and private partnership that will bring the longtime Pawcatuck manufacturer - and its 165 employees - to the site of a former semiconductor plant here.
"We're pleased to be here and looking forward to a lot of growth," said Scibelli, Yardney's chairman and chief executive officer, during a morning news conference. "We have a great future here, and we're happy to be here."
Yardney is moving from Pawcatuck, where it has outgrown its space in a leased mill, to 2000 South County Trail in East Greenwich, once home to On Semiconductors and Cherry Semiconductors. The building has been vacant for several years.
Scibelli, who lives in Stonington, said he might have stayed in Connecticut if the mill in Pawcatuck did not need such substantial renovations to meet his company's needs. A 30-minute commute to East Greenwich from the Connecticut border will be manageable for his employees, whom he called the "envy of my competition."
Joining Scibelli during the welcoming festivities were Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, East Greenwich Town Manager Bill Sequino, and Anthony Capuano Jr., senior vice president of Webster Bank's commercial banking group, which is providing financing for the deal.
"This facility is tailor-made for advanced manufacturing," said Chafee, who hailed Yardney as a company that exemplifies the "new economy."
"Rhode Island has a lot to offer," he added. "We're very happy for you to take over this facility. It's something we want to see grow here in this old semiconductor facility. We roll out the red carpet to you."
Yardney makes advanced high-energy density lithium-ion and silver-zinc cells and batteries used in defense and aerospace equipment, including torpedoes, the B-2 bomber and missiles for Trident submarines. Ninety percent of its work is contracted by the federal government.
"We're working on the new (Mars) Rover now," Scibelli said. On the commercial side of the business, Yardeny is developing a battery for a hearing aid that is implanted in bone behind the ear.
The deal that made it possible for Scibelli, the sole owner of the 67-year-old company since 1990, to relocate is the loan from the Waterbury-based Webster Bank, facilitated by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. The deal includes a tax-exempt bond totaling $6 million from the Rhode Island Industrial-Recreational Building Authority.
The bond is being used to buy and renovate the 140,000-square-foot manufacturing and research-and-development facility. The new building will keep employees in close proximity, provide new labs and generally be much more efficient than the mill, the owner said.
The building "that suited our needs was right there in Rhode Island," he said after the news conference. "(State and local officials) put everything together to get the deal done. I tried the best I could to remain (in Pawcatuck) and it didn't come together."
Through the 25-year tax-exempt bond arrangement, the company is able to keep more working capital on its balance sheet instead of investing it directly in the building, said Capuano of Webster Bank.
"The benefit is bringing in high-paying professional jobs," added Sequino. East Greenwich is losing about the same amount of workers Yardney is bringing in with the closing of fastener manufacturer Stanley Bostitch next year, the town manager said.
Republican state Sen. Dawson Hodgson, whose district includes East Greenwich, said he's eager to work on Yardney's behalf. "We're on the team fighting for a favorable business climate," he told Scibelli. "(We've got) a lot of hard work to do."