Bed and mattress maker picks Manchester

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WCW, Inc., currently based in Hoosick Falls,, N.Y. announced Monday it was moving its operations into the 160,000 square foot building currently largely occupied by Applejack Art Partners off of Richville Road, formerly known as the Moore-Wallace building. WCW will be buying the building, has reached a contractual agreement with its current owners, and hopes to start moving equipment over to the new site soon, possibly as early as next week, said John C. Wilkinson, the chairman of WCW's board of directors. He declined for now to reveal the selling price the parties agreed to for the building, which was built about 25 years ago.

The company does not anticipate being fully operational in Manchester for another 4-5 months, he said.

"We will be operating there marginally in 30 days, probably," he said.

Currently, the company occupies three buildings in Hoosick Falls as well as a fourth building in Bennington. The opportunity to house all their operations under one roof was a compelling reason to make a return to Vermont, Wilkinson said. The company was originally founded in 1985 in Bennington, before moving to Hoosick Falls 12 years ago.

Another issue influencing the move was taxes, Wilkinson said. The anticipated tax bill for the Applejack Building is $35,844, of which $3,811 will go into municipal coffers, and the rest to education-related taxes, according to John O'Keefe, Manchester's town manager. The Applejack building is currently assessed for $2.3 million by the town of Manchester.

WCW is currently embroiled in a tax dispute with Rensselaer County (N.Y) over one of their three Hoosick Falls buildings for the past four years. According to a recent news report published in the North Adams Transcript, Rensselaer County claims it is owed more than $1 million in back taxes on the property. The situation had reached the point of being "unresolvable," Wilkinson said.

"We had to make a decision and our decision was to move," he said.

That decision was greeted with much excitement and enthusiasm at Manchester's town hall on Monday.

"On behalf of the town of Manchester, it's a great pleasure to welcome WCW, Inc. to Manchester," stated Ivan Beattie, the chairman of the town's Select Board. "The effort represents an extraordinary collaboration between the town of Manchester, BCIC and the state of Vermont. 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."

A little over a year ago, the town organized an office of economic development to promote the town as a site for businesses looking to move or expand to.

Having the office of economic development in place meant the town officials were able to more quickly respond to indications of interest, said John O'Keefe, Manchester's town manager.

"It gave us the ability to mobilize ourselves and have the right conversations with businesses," he said.

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The news was one of the biggest, arguably the biggest, piece of economic development in terms of single events in Manchester for the past 20 years, O'Keefe said, who noted there were already several large and important businesses who called the town home.

"For us, the state and the region, it's a big win," he said.

Having that large of a new workforce in town alone would provide a boost to other area businesses, and in time, hopefully some additional employment opportunities as well.

WCW Inc., currently employs 106 workers in Hoosick Falls, and the existing employees will have the first crack at keeping their jobs following the move to Manchester. Initially, there may not be many job openings for Manchester-area residents, Wilkinson said, but over time, that would probably change.

When the company was based in Bennington, about 70 percent of the jobs were held by Vermonters, and the rest by New York residents. Today, that ratio is almost reversed, and another reversal was likely over time, he said.

The state of Vermont also weighed in with an incentives package that was another reason the company opted to make the move to Manchester, along with the building and the tax situation, Wilkinson said.

The town also received a boost from the state of Vermont, which offered a package of incentives pegged at $522,484 from the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive Program. The VEGI program, as it is often referred to, is an initiative administered by the state's Department of Economic Development, which is part of the state Agency of Commerce. The package has received initial approval, according to a statement from Gov. Peter Shumlin's office, and a final application will be submitted later this year.

Peter Odierna, the executive director of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation, said the state incentive package, is awarded to the company based on its economic benefit to the state, according to a news report in the Bennington Banner earlier this week.

Each year, for five years, WCW will have to show it has met or exceeded its expectations in order to get the cash award for that year, Odierna said, according to The Banner.

On its Web site, the Department of Economic Development describes the VEGI program as one that provides a qualifying company with a cash payment based on the job and payroll creation, along with other capital investments. The qualifying companies can only receive these revenues after the job creation and other investment targets have been reached.

"Vermont did an excellent job of presenting a competitive incentive package and providing assistance to us from the Shumlin administration - including the Governor himself - as well as from the Bennington County Industrial Corporation and local representatives," said WCW chairman John Wilkinson, in a statement released on Tuesday by the Governor's office. "My family and I very much look forward to our future in Vermont." Shumlin was also upbeat about the news.

"This is a great day for Bennington County. I am delighted that WCW selected Vermont as its new home," said Gov. Shumlin. "Creating jobs has been a priority of mine, and today's announcement is further proof that Vermont is a great place to do business."

WCW Inc., products include electric adjustable beds, memory foam beds and pillows, airbeds and latex beds. They supply all the beds in several major hospitals, including Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Emory Medical Center in Atlanta, Ga. The company also signed a contract last week with a Chinese firm that will license some of WCW's technology but also purchase the core systems for hospital beds that will be manufactured here.


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