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Manufacturing growth continues in Holyoke

Date: 10/18/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE – The Paper City may not produce paper as it once did, but manufacturing still plays “a big role” in the city’s economic life, according to Marcos Marrero, director of Planning & Economic Development.

October is National Manufacturing Month and Marrero spoke to Reminder Publications about the status of manufacturing in the city. He said that manufacturing “not just employs a lot of people, but serves a lot of needs.”

There is a diversity of manufacturing that ranges from precision machining to plastics to paper and box making, he noted.

Marrero looks at Holyoke’s manufacturing base as a regional one, not just one for a single city.

“It’s one metropolis,” he added.

Marrero said present companies are showing signs of growth. The new owners of Universal Plastics have added between 15 and 20 new positions, while U.S. Tsubaki is increasing the size of its building and its workforce by 15 jobs.

Holyoke has been picked as the home of the Massachusetts Center for Advanced Design and Manufacturing (MCADM), a new nonprofit organization led by Eric Hagopian, the former president and CEO of Hoppe Technologies Inc. in Chicopee, Marrero said.

He explained the new organization would assist manufacturers statewide with assistance for the implementation and adoption of new technologies and best practices.

Marrero said many businesses could expand but need new technology to do so and that requires a risk of a capital expense. MCADM will help businesses in the implementation of new systems and devices to grow jobs, he added.

MCADM is seen as “exciting,” by Marrero because the organization will serve not only the entire Commonwealth but will be headquartered in Holyoke. Having such a program means the Commonwealth can compete for a national manufacturing initiative center.

Holyoke manufacturers were introduced to MCADM during the October meeting Mayor Alex Morse conducts with them. Marrero said they “were very interested.”

Marrero said the Pioneer Valley is “still good for precision manufacturing,” however, there is a challenge of getting young people into the field.

The other development that might affect that industry is the growth and development of 3-D printing, he added.

Holyoke does have many favorable characteristics, he said, including access to two interstate highways, one of the lowest electric rates in New England, access to rail through the Pioneer Valley Railroad and upcoming Amtrak service.

He admitted the commercial tax rate is high, but property rates are lower so the actual tax bills “are not as bad” as in other communities.

The cost of living is less expensive in Holyoke than in other parts of the state, Marrero added.

Marrero said that new companies are coming to Holyoke. Package Machinery is moving from West Springfield to Holyoke and Marrero said this was not the case of trying to raid one community. The company’s building had been damaged by the 2011 tornado and the owners had been looking for a building to accommodate an expansion.

“They thought Holyoke was the right environment,” Marrero said.