LC Drives gets go-ahead to build Potsdam facility

LC Drives Quality Technician Austin Lattrell uses a probing tool on a custom roll former at the company’s Clarkson University facility in Potsdam last month. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — A new facility representing the start of further expansion for LC Drives has been approved by the Potsdam Town Planning Board.

The board voted to issue a special use permit following a public hearing Tuesday night for the company’s site plan and request to construct a 30,000-square-foot light manufacturing facility at 6968 Route 56. LC Drives develops permanent magnet technologies for electric motors and generators, and directs its work to support renewable energy in marine propulsion, wind turbine generators and industrial motors for manufacturing facilities.

The town decision comes after the St. Lawrence County Planning Board granted conditional approval for the project last month.

The proposed move to Route 56 follows steady growth and coincides with the company’s intentions to expand from the North Country Incubator, jointly operated by Clarkson University’s Shipley Center for Innovation and the state’s Hot Spot Program.

LC Drives operates out of Damon Hall and offices in Old Main, across from Old Snell Hall on Main Street.

A transition to Route 56 between the villages of Potsdam and Norwood has been in the works for a few years, and the company already has approval to develop a new 120,000-square-foot facility on the property.

During the public hearing, Devon C. Sutton, LC Drives director of strategic operations, said the company is not yet ready to move forward with the full Route 56 expansion. The 30,000-square-foot building would house two manufacturing lines and serve as a transition space until the remaining 120,000 square feet can complete the 150,000-square-foot hub.

The relocation and ideal expansion to 150,000 square feet by 2024, Ms. Sutton said last month, would support its anticipated staffing growth to 500 employees within the next five years. In 2019, about 20 people were employed by LC Drives, and that total increased to 63 by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. Despite the ongoing health crisis and nationwide economic shutdown, 125 employees now work for the company.

Planning Board member Alan Daniels asked Ms. Sutton about the possibility of LC Drives opting out of the Route 56 move, as the company has previously explored out-of-state relocation options.

As she expressed last month when the company announced a renewed effort to seek state funding for the expansion, she reiterated LC Drives’ commitment to the north country. Talks with state and federal funders are resuming, more than a year after the pandemic stalled investment considerations.

Water and sewer access along Route 56 is also integral to LC Drives’ Potsdam future.

In a January referendum, town property owners voted to approve a $10.3 million project to establish water and sewer districts on the Sissonville Road corridor off Route 56.

The lines will connect property owners in the hamlet of Unionville and east to Route 56 to municipal services. The town was awarded $5.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants for the project last year, and a potential $3 million could come from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

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