Mattress Maker Picks Green Mountain Site
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — According to reports from The Manchester (Vt.) Journal, a New York bedding company looking for a new home has decided on Vermont.
WCW Inc., a manufacturer of speciality mattresses for the hospitality and medical industries had also been eyeing the former Sprague building in the Hardman Industrial Park. The city was prepared to offer a property tax incentive and declare the site an economic opportunity development area to open up incentives from the state. The City Council was expected to take up the matter at its meeting next week.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said he had spoken with WCW owner John Wilkinson on Monday morning and Wilkinson seemed to be leaning toward Manchester. However, he had received no notice by late afternoon on Wilkinson's decision.
Alcombright said he had been retooling figures to offer a better benefits package.
The Hoosick Fall, N.Y., company would have brought 100 jobs and a payroll estimated at $4 million to the city with the potential for growth. WCW had narrowed down its new location to either North Adams or Manchester. It was expected to make a decision early this week.
The Manchester Journal quotes Manchester Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie as saying, "Clearly, WCW's relocation from New York State to Manchester is proof-positive that the town's tax and development policies and new economic development office are paying dividends."
Wilkinson told the Journal that he expects the company to begin operating "marginally" in the 160,000 square foot building in 30 days and be fully operations in 4 to 5 months. The building, known as the Applejack building, is currently occupied by Applejack Art Partners.
The paper said Gov. Peter Shumlin's office was expected to make an announcement on Tuesday after the state offered to provide an incentive package for the company to move there.
The town's community development office gave "no comment" last week on which site WCW was eyeing; the Manchester Journal speculated it was the Applejack Arts building but gave no further information.
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City Still Pursuing Bedmaker
WCW Inc., a New York mattress manufacturer, is reportedly negotiating to purchase the former Sprague building in the Hardman Industrial Park.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A mattress manufacturer eyeing sites in the city and Manchester, Vt., is expected to make a decision early next week on where it will move 100 jobs.
The city and state are continuing to work with WCW Inc., a maker of specialty beds for the medical and hospitality industry, despite the company's legal tangle over property taxes in New York State.
"This will be resolved," said Mayor Richard Alcombright on Thursday. "I don't see it in the way of the city moving forward in pursuing this company and these jobs."
WCW and the town of Hoosick and the village of Hoosick Falls have been in a standoff over the valuation of the company's 1 Mechanic St. building purchased in 2006 by its realty arm, JW Realty.
The town accuses WCW of failing to pay $1 million in taxes and reneging on an understanding about a lowered evaluation. Rensselaer County, which is stuck with the bill that WCW hasn't paid, is asking the court to foreclose on the property.
WCW says the assessment wasn't lowered enough to reflect fair market value and the town hasn't been willing to work to resolve the issue. The owners also say the town's claim WCW has a bad "track record" on taxes isn't true and that it's up to date on its three other properties.
There have been accusations between them of tactical delays, failing to file paperwork, outsized assessments, and useless negotiations. The matter has been tied up in court since 2007; the most recent move is the summary foreclosure judgment requested by the county.
Owner John Wilkinson has been mostly silent on the issue, declining to speak to the media despite numerous phone calls. On Thursday, he sent a response to Alcombright addressing the recent news articles and outlining his side of the dispute.
Wilkinson said the company had purchased the property for $400,000 and had an appraisal done that came up with a value of $1.2 million, to which it agreed. The village has valued the property at $13.3 million; the town has set an assessed value of $2 million. (New York has multiple taxing authorities.)
Alcombright, a former banker, said it was not unusual for such a dispute to take four or five years to resolve. But it has raised eyebrows on this side of the border and fears of a fly-by-night business taking advantage of the city.
Alcombright said the letter was in line with what Wilkinson had discussed with he and Michael L. Vedovelli, regional director for the state Office of Business Development. The city and state are crafting an incentive package to induce Wilkinson to choose the Berkshires over the Green Mountains and the deadline is tight for both the public initiative and the private relocation.
"I'm not seeing this as a huge red flag," the mayor said. "To slow down this process because this has been politicized is insane."
WCW is looking to purchase the empty Sprague Electric building in the Hardman Industrial Park owned Curran Memorial Realty Trust. The city would offer a limited property tax discount, estimated at about $175,000 over five years based on the current assessment of $2.2 million. The valuation of the building has been abated several times and is about the half the value from when Sprague was operating there. Its fiscal 2011 taxes were $70,781.
The City Council will have to approve any agreement.
Wilkinson wrote that a final attempt in June to talk to the town and village was rejected and the failure to achieve a resolution was the determining factor in the decision to relocate.
"At the time WCW/JW Realty determined a new location was essential and would be leaving Hoosick Falls," he wrote.
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Mattress Company Could Bring 100 Jobs to City
Finance Committee Chairman Michael Bloom and member David Bond endorsed the creation of an economic opportunity area and tax incentive for a company looking to move 100 jobs to the city.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is hoping a Hoosick Falls, N.Y., company will make its beds — lots of them — in North Adams. The move could bring at least 100 jobs.
WCW Inc., a family-owned manufacturer of bedding for hospitals and the hospitality industry, is eyeing the former Sprague Electric building in the Hardman Industrial Park. The growing venture wants to consolidate all three of its current facilities into one operation.
The Finance Committee on Wednesday eagerly endorsed a request by Mayor Richard Alcombright to designate the nearly 100,000 square-foot building and property in the industrial park an economic opportunity area and the accompanying five-year special property tax assessment. A resolution and tax incentive will go before the City Council on Aug. 23.
The incentive is part of a package to sweeten the deal over a competing site in Manchester, Vt.
"[Owner] John Wilkinson really likes North Adams, he's made that very clear," said Alcombright, who was knowledgeable about what Vermont was offering. "I looked at the numbers that he had ... we certainly seemed to be very, very competitive; in fact, I think we're more competitive."
The mayor said the condition and size of the building, the city's lower property prices and taxes, significantly lower state workers compensation rates and state tax credits, and McCann Technical School and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts were all attractors. It also hasn't hurt that Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki has spoken to the Wilkinsons on the city's behalf.
In a letter of intent to the mayor, WCW President Jeffrey Wilkinson wrote, "this project would involve the purchase of an existing building suitable to allow the relocation of our entire operation and staff. This would involved relocation of approximately 100 jobs with an annual payroll in excess of $4 million."
Local and state officials have been working with the company to bring the deal to fruition over the past six weeks.
"This is by far the most exciting, encouraging thing since ... Mass MoCA," said Councilor Keith Bona.
Michael L. Vedovelli, regional director for the state Office of Business Development, said the City Council's approval will be necessary to wrap up a package including state tax credits by a September deadline for the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council.
"It's viewed as a three-way partnership with all parties coming together," he said, describing the state's package as "aggressive."
Where a TIF, or tax increment financing, agreement allows reductions on capital investments, the STA provides for property tax discounts over the entire value. That's important, said Alcombright, because investment into the building is expected to be small while the assessment on the property is $2.2 million.
WCW mattresses are sold to hospital and hotels — and exported to China.
"The STA will provide, I believe, the incentive we need to have this company locate in North Adams," said the mayor. "Their commitment, on the other hand, is the purchase of the building, capital improvements, corporate growth and expansion of jobs over time."
The STA would would tax the company at 25 percent increments, starting at 0 and ending at 100 percent over the five years.
John Wilkinson has been in the bedding business for some 30 years; WCW was established in 1992 and holds 16 patents for various types of bedding and mattresses. It currently operates an administrative headquarters and a manufacturing facility for sewing, foam cutting and assembly in Hoosick Falls and customer call center in Bennington, Vt.
WCW is looking to relocate before the end of the year and the former Sprague building is "the perfect size" for them, said the mayor. The structure is about 20 years old; it has been vacant for some years but is in good condition. It also has space to the south that would allow for future expansion.
About 80 percent of current jobholders are expected to follow the company; that percentage would decrease as jobs opened for local residents and the company expanded.
Alcombright and Michael Nuvallie of the Office of Community Development toured the facility last week and were impressed with the operation. In addition to being family owned and an American manufacturer (that exports to China), the company is very green: everything is recycled, it's very clean and it uses nontoxic materials.
"I think everybody in this city is ready for some good news," said Bond. He asked, "is there any way for the council, the community, to communicate with this company and really let them know ... how well received they would be?"
"I think supporting the STA shows how committed you as a council and the city of North Adams are toward this project," said Vedovelli, "and if you're talking about welcome, I think that's a very strong sign."
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City Advertising for Tourism Director
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is looking for a new face — someone who will promote North Adams' cultural and recreational assets and partner with regional organizations with similar goals.
The position for a director of tourism and community events was posted on BerkshireJobs.com last week. The job appears to expand on what had been the director of the Mayor's Office of Tourism and Cultural Development.
According to the job posting, "This position will create an atmosphere that attracts, welcomes and supports existing and new cultural institutions and creative businesses, as well as artists and creative individuals of all disciplines into the city of North Adams."
The goal is to increase the number of visitors (and the amount of their spending) in the city by coordinating events with other entities and towns and promoting marketing intiatives. The director will also coordinate all city-sponsored activities, such as the Mayor's Downtown Celebration, the Northern Berkshire Food Festival, and sporting events among others. The person selected will also be expected to grow a volunteer corps and work with existing organizations.
The post requires a bachelor's degree in marketing or communications and several years experience in related marketing. The new director will also have to be able to handle the website, email marketing, social media and online strategies.
The tourism position had been filled for the past decade by Rod Bunt, a former WNAW radio host hired by the former administration. Bunt quit March 3 saying he was looking for opportunities in the private sector, but there had been speculation for months that he and Mayor Richard Alcombright weren't seeing eye to eye on the position's responsibilities. "I've been canned, sacked, terminated, booted, ...," he wrote on his "The Unemployment Diary," but later told the Transcript that it was a writing exercise for an obscure literary magazine.
Alcombright said the city would take the opportunity to expand and "carefully craft" the director's job description to incorporate more marketing skills. Within a couple weeks of Bunt's departure and before any job vacancy was posted, the city had received nearly three dozen resumes.
The director's post is currently an S-35, with a starting pay of $33,009. The advertisement does not give a wage estimate nor is it clear the position will be the same classification. Alcombright last year raised eyebrows when he pushed for a new classification for an administrative assistant that jumped the job's starting wage up several steps from the secretarial classification.
The city's also looking for a seasonal park security officer for Windsor Lake and the campground. The Parks & Recreation Commission discussed the post at its last meeting.
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