Essex chemical engineering firm expanding to Norwich

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Norwich — An Essex-based chemical engineering research and development firm has purchased a vacant 76,000-square-foot building in the business park for $1.9 million and plans to launch an advanced manufacturing arm of the business there once renovations are completed.

Nalas Engineering Services Inc. of the Centerbrook section of Essex purchased the building formerly occupied by Gunther International LTD, at 1 Winnenden Road at the corner of New Park Avenue in the Stanley Israelite Norwich Business Park. The transaction was recorded in the Norwich land records Monday, with the city receiving $9,660 in property conveyance taxes.

The full sale price was $2.1 million, said Pequot Commercial Broker John Jensen, who handled the transaction for the seller — $1.9 million for the Norwich property, and $200,000 for 16 acres across the Norwich border in Franklin.

Nalas Engineering received a $1.68 million mortgage from Dime Bank on the property.

Jerry Salan, founder and CEO of Nalas Engineering, said the company develops non-explosive chemical components for the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy and is ready to launch an advanced manufacturing component in Norwich. He said the firm does some light manufacturing in Essex, but the facility has no room for a larger scale operation.

“We will fill the building within the next five years,” Salan said.

Nalas — Salan’s name backwards — has 40 employees in Essex and will retain its research and development facility there. He anticipates hiring another 60 employees for the Norwich manufacturing facility within the next five years.

The building needs extensive renovations, which are being designed, including knocking down walls. Nalas is working with an architectural firm to design the best use of the building’s space.

Nalas will manufacture chemical components for weapons systems, but not the explosive components, Salan said. He said traditionally, chemicals are manufactured on a mass scale with large vessels, but Nalas will use smaller container vessels in a “continuous processing” to avoid the need for larger containers.

Salan said many of these components now are manufactured in China and India.

“So, we are picking up the ingredients and making them in the U.S.,” Salan said. “We make the material just before it becomes explosive, and ship to the manufacturer of explosives.”

Salan said the company had been searching the region for a location for manufacturing for the past year, working with real estate agent Judy Walsh of Pequot Commercial. He said they looked at about a dozen buildings, but most had issues to overcome.

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said city officials from various planning, building and zoning departments and Norwich Public Utilities met with Salan at the building this fall and discussed the company’s plans and utility needs. Nystrom said the city ownership of all four utilities — electricity, water, natural gas and sewer — was an advantage.

“They’re looking for the right building for their needs,” Nystrom said. “We’re excited to welcome them to the community and get that building working again.”

Salan, too, credited NPU for its assistance thus far.

“NPU has been great so far,” Salan said. “They’ve offered to help us with whatever we need. We’re excited to get operations up and running.”

Robert Mills, president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., said NCDC tried to attract Salan to the former Thames Printing building in the business park several years ago, when he first launched the company at the Avery Point, Groton business incubator. “We just couldn’t make it work,” Mills said.

"NPU is always ready, willing and able to work with the Mayor and NCDC to attract and retain businesses in Norwich," NPU Acting General Manager Chris LaRose said in an email statement. "We are excited to welcome Nalas Engineering to Norwich and look forward to working with them as they get up and running in their new building."

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have him back,” Mills said. “It’s a high-tech outfit, one of a kind in the country. It should be a good, long lasting business, and we’re pretty thrilled.”

c.bessette@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version clarifies that Nalas Engineering Services also spent $200,000 to purchase land in Franklin.

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