By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2022 Issue
Anyone from upstate New York will quickly make it clear that there is a lot more to the Empire State than New York City and its nearby high-paced environs. In fact, they will be sure to note that upstate cities like Rochester, Buffalo, Albany and Syracuse and nearby communities have their own robust—though changing—economies.
Economic developers around the state are taking bold steps to encourage companies to consider them for their future growth, noting along the way that New York has an extremely educated workforce, great natural resources and an eagerness to show just what they can offer to businesses—new and old.
Fulton County, NY: Painting By Numbers
There is a chance that the paint on your walls was manufactured right in Fulton County, New York.
Montvale, NJ-based paint giant Benjamin Moore, the sixth-largest producer of coatings in North America in 2019 with $828 million in sales, operates five manufacturing plants in the U.S., including one in Fulton County. “Johnstown currently is our largest plant by production volume,” said manufacturing director Paul Connelie. The physical plant is scheduled to nearly double in size on its 75-acre site.
The company’s growth strategy, coupled with an increased demand for its products from contractors and do-it-yourselfers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, has led the company to expand its production capabilities. Company executives considered all five of its manufacturing locations for the expansion, and Johnstown won out.
To encourage the company to select Johnstown, the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency offered sales and property tax benefits. It took two months to gain conceptual approval to start the project from the time Benjamin Moore executives chose Johnstown for the expansion. “We had pretty quick agreement and support from the County IDA, City of Johnstown, and Center for Regional Growth to proceed quickly,” Connelie said.
Benjamin Moore plans to add 150,000 square feet to the Johnstown plant. The expansion will provide space for additional manufacturing capacity, more bulk liquid storage, and employee facilities.
The project, which has a budget of $17.8 million for the first year with continued investment over the next three years, will allow the company to augment its existing manufacturing technologies. “We’ll introduce some new technologies in regard to how we make our paint,” Connelie said, noting that this will allow the Johnstown plant to support Benjamin Moore’s other manufacturing facilities in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Alabama, and Texas.
The company, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, will invest in state-of-the-art equipment in the Johnstown location. This includes the latest technology that exists in the paint manufacturing industry. Connelie noted that this expansion project represents one of the company’s single largest investments at any of its sites.
The expansion will create 35 new jobs. If the past serves as precedent, the company will be able to easily fill those job openings. When the company was deciding where to open a new manufacturing facility in the early 1990s, one of its main considerations was an available workforce, and it found that in Fulton County. The plant operates three shifts, seven days a week.
The area’s steady, skilled workforce has remained constant. “There’s a pretty strong work ethic in the folks we interview and bring on board,” Connelie said. “They come to us with the technical skills based on previous experience. That’s helpful.”
Another factor the company took into consideration when it first opened the plant in 1991 was its proximity to some of the largest markets in the country, namely, New York City, Boston and Chicago. Johnstown is a one-day or less transit time to those cities. The Johnstown location is less than five miles away from Interstate 90, the longest interstate highway in the U.S. The location also affords easy access to another main corridor in the area, the New York State Thruway.
In an era where employees are looking beyond just a paycheck, being in Fulton County is an advantage. “Our folks in Fulton County love the region because of the opportunities they have to recreate in the outdoors,” Connelie said. “They love the region from that perspective.”
The Johnstown expansion project is expected to be mostly completed in 2022, with new equipment commissioning at the end of the year and into 2023.