April 10, 2018
Manufacturing Insights

Primetals considered Worcester, Devens before picking Sutton

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Primetals' Crescent Street location in Worcester.
Courtesy | Primetals
Michael Eldredge, vice president of the company's mini mills and long rolling division at Primetals.
Courtesy | Primetals
A concept building rendering of Primetals' Sutton facility.

Worcester metal manufacturer Primetals is closing its two Worcester facilities and consolidating into a new facility it plans to build in Sutton, which received a 15-year tax-increment financing agreement from the town. The facility at 85 Gilmore Drive off of Route 146 will house the company's steel mill equipment manufacturing; research and development; engineering and sales operations. Michael Eldredge, vice president of the company's mini mills and long rolling division, spoke with WBJ about the reasons behind the move.

Ultimately, why did the company choose to relocate its Worcester operation to Sutton?

After two years of research, analysis and deliberation, we came to realize while our facility at Crescent Street has served us well for the last 100 years, it will not carry us for the next 100. We have a strong commitment to manufacturing in this region, and we wanted to minimize the impact of our move on commuting time for our employees.

From all of our options, Sutton offered the most favorable change to employee commute times. The Town of Sutton has been very friendly and very accommodating. Town officials moved the tax incentive process through their system very quickly.

Did the commercial/business tax rate in Worcester play a factor?

We had to consider all costs associated with this investment in our future, and the tax rate and incentive offered by Sutton was one of several factors in our decision. The reality is that there was not a suitable site in Worcester to meet all of our needs.

What appealed to the company about building new in Sutton rather than renovating existing facilities?

We thought quite seriously about renovating our location at Crescent Street. This location and facility have served us well, and it will be sad to leave it. The cost to renovate the building to match the level we would get in a new building would have been even more expensive than building new, and we would have a larger space than we needed. In addition, it's an older, evolved building, and inefficient from a layout standpoint.

We also analyzed existing buildings both in and outside Worcester. In each case, we found the cost of refitting the building as too high. Each building presented its own constraints. Ultimately, new construction offered the most effective use of our funds.

How long has Primetals been exploring such a move?

After a review of potential renovation options, which took about a year, once we determined that our existing facility at Crescent Street could not be adequately retrofitted to meet the needs of a 21st century workplace and manufacturing site.

How many other locations did the company look at? Can you tell us where those were?

Overall, we considered nearly 100 other locations in the region, and eventually narrowed it down to Worcester, Sutton and Devens. We looked for sites with the needed acreage, either green or brownfield, to accommodate our plans for a new factory and office space.

Now, the company will be able to work in just one facility in the area. How will this help operations?

This new 183,000-square-foot facility will provide the first opportunity for employees to work together at one location. Our goal is to have what we call a 360 environment where engineering, manufacturing, sales and our other departments are all together, able to respond to changing customer requirements and leverage our investment in advanced technology manufacturing tools. This strategic relocation will enable a greater focus on our worldwide long rolling customers who are currently served from our Massachusetts location. The facility will meet long rolling customer needs for both services and capital projects.

What does the the future hold for Primetals in Sutton?

This is a very positive outcome overall. A new, modern facility will provide our talented people and the generations to come with the resources they need to continue exceeding customer expectations. It's a significant opportunity to invest in our future and establish a foundation for continued success for the next 100 years.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.

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