Nordson manufacturing plant plans big expansion in Norwich

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Norwich — Local and regional economic development officials on Friday cheered the submission of plans for the long-awaited manufacturing expansion by Nordson EFD LLC in the Norwich Business Park, expected to bring a variety of manufacturing jobs to the region.

Nordson, the former Plas-Pak Industries, manufactures precision measuring and dispensing devices for medical and manufacturing uses at its plant at 10 Connecticut Ave. in the Stanley Israelite Norwich Business Park. The company submitted plans this week for a 53,880-square-foot, or 37%, expansion to the existing 142,782-square-foot building.

The expansion plans come as the Concentra Urgent Care Center moved out of the building to the former Shoeniverse shoe store at 315 W. Main St.

Nordson officials could not be reached for comment Friday on details of the manufacturing plans for the building. The company now has about 150 employees working two and a half shifts, according to the Norwich Community Development Corp. Nordson’s real estate and personal property equipment have a total assessment in the Norwich tax records of $8.28 million, but the facilities receive a $2.3 million manufacturing equipment exemption through the state, city Assessor Donna Ralston said.

The plans submitted to the city planning department state the company envisions the plant's largest work shift to be 150 employees. City officials said the expansion will bring high-tech robotics manufacturing units to the plant, along with an expanded workforce.

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom and economic development officials said the expansion plan is the result of years of working with Nordson’s corporate leaders to convince the company that southeastern Connecticut will have the trained workforce available to support the expansion. In addition, Norwich Public Utilities worked with the company on energy efficiency utility upgrades.

“This is a major, major investment,” Nystrom said Friday. “Actually, we’ve been in discussion with them for several years. We had to show that we had the workforce to support their expansion. We would have periodic updates at their office. They told us the last piece was to demonstrate the workforce was here.”

To do that, the Norwich Community Development Corp. Vice President Jill Fritzsche researched high school enrollment in the region and the number of potential graduates expected to enter the workforce. The Eastern Workforce Investment Board provided detailed information about its extensive Manufacturing Pipeline training programs underway. Nordson already had tapped into the pipeline graduates for the existing workforce needs, EWIB Chief Operating Officer Hill said Friday.

“Once we could demonstrate we had the workers, we got the pick,” Nystrom said. “It wasn’t easy. There were two other states in the mix. ... We’re very excited, very pleased and grateful. They like that NPU is a part of this. That’s a plus.”

The expansion of Nordson is not just great news for a major business in Norwich, it's great news for NPU and the entire community, NPU spokesman Chris Riley said Friday. 

NPU had worked with Nordson and predecessor Plas-Pak on efficiency projects over the past 12 years. As it does with other major customers, NPU specialists make regular contact through phone calls, on-site visits and work done by Field Service personnel to better understand their business, concerns and plans," Riley said. 

"We have talked to Nordson about their expansion for some time," Riley said. "And because we were involved early in their planning process, we’ve been able to help them make the best utility decisions for their continued success."

NCDC President Robert Mills said Nordson has been expanding operations within the existing building already, repositioning equipment inside, replacing older manufacturing equipment with new robotics systems and compacting storage and warehouse areas to create more manufacturing space.

“They maximized the usage of the building they have, and they always planned on doing this,” Mills said. “They’re going to add onto the building for manufacturing.”

Mills added: “They’ve been delightful to work with.”

Hill at the Eastern Workforce Investment Board said the success in landing the Nordson expansion validates the agency’s 3½-year investment in the Manufacturing Pipeline. He and Mayor Nystrom stressed that the pipeline is not just for those interested in the major expansion at Electric Boat.

Hill said EWIB works with companies such as Nordson to show that there are trainees in the pipeline suited for employment in their plants. The pipeline has placed 1,550 people in jobs throughout the region since the training programs started, more than three times the initial goal of 400 placements by this time, Hill said.

About 65 classes offered through the pipeline, which now reaches into high schools to train students not planning to go to college or the military, include 200 to 300 hours of training in welding, electric, plumbing, pipefitting and numerous other trades. Students range in age from 17 to people in their 60s looking for new careers, Hill said.

With the pipeline, southeastern Connecticut now leads the state in creating manufacturing jobs, Hill said.

“Building the pipeline,” Hill said, “(Nordson’s expansion) verifies that it was the right move.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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