A high-tech manufacturing company is leaving Vermont for better business options in North Carolina and New Jersey. The Swiss-owned firm Huber+Suhner established its North American headquarters in Essex Junction in 1990.
Administrative offices will move to Charlotte, N.C. Assembly work will migrate to the precision manufacturing facilities of Astrolab Inc. in Warren, N.J. Huber+Suhner acquired Astrolab in 2012, two years after establishing a manufacturing plant in Mexico.
Some of the 63 employees working in Essex Junction will be asked to move with the company. President and General Manager Andy Hollywood declined to specify how many people are employed on the manufacturing versus administrative sides of the business.
According to a news release, most Vermont assembly positions will end by the close of 2013, and all separated employees will be offered severance packages and outplacement services. The relocation is expected to be completed by June 2014.
Manufacturing workers at Hubert+Suhner assemble radio frequency cables for communications, transportation and industrial sectors.
Lawrence Miller, secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said his offices will reach out to the firm’s executives to learn more about their decision to leave.
Hollywood said in an interview that the decision was based on a combination of tax and workforce considerations.
“Obviously, the cost of doing business here and the tax perspective is a significant reason why we’re moving,” Hollywood said. “For the most part, (North Carolina) is a lower overall tax implication to the company.”
A spokesman for the firm, Joe Choquette of the Burlington-based law firm Downs Rachlin Martin, said that lower real estate prices in North Carolina contribute greatly to reduced property tax liabilities.
Hollywood also reflected on growing difficulty filling administrative positions, saying the number of qualified applicants for open positions has declined in the past five years. That’s been particularly true for positions outside of manufacturing, such as human resources, finance, customer service and some engineering positions, he said.
Choquette indicated that a wider workforce in North Carolina would improve hiring options.
With about 775,000 people, Charlotte’s population exceeds that of the entire state of Vermont by nearly 150,000, according to 2012 U.S. Census estimates.
Choquette said that a “competitive salary environment” in North Carolina also made it attractive as a headquarters. He added that North Carolina’s central location on the East Coast and its ocean ports make shipping more convenient, and Charlotte’s major airport will offer more direct access to cities in the U.S.
Miller said the primary initial response of the state is for the Department of Labor to assist any employees who may lose their jobs as a result of the relocation.
“And we’ll take a look at the real estate and help market it, to help somebody else get in, if necessary,” Miller said.
Choquette said manufacturing has become more expensive in the United States over the years — a business expense the company has answered by gradually reducing its domestic production.