CANTON — St. Lawrence County lawmakers Monday were asked to pass a resolution of support for a request by innovative motor maker LC Drives for $50 million in state aid.
The company hopes to use the money to create a new facility on Route 56 between the village of Potsdam and the village of Norwood, with the projected creation of 300 jobs.
The request came following a brief presentation to the county‘s Finance Committee by LC Drives Director of Strategic Operations Devon C. Sutton about the company and the proposed 120,000-square-foot factory at 6968 Route 56.
The company intends to begin construction next summer, with construction expected to be completed in December 2021.
LC Drives is currently in Clarkson University’s Shipley Center for Innovation in Damon Hall, where the company have been since 2014, two years after it was started by CEO Russel H. Marvin.
Both Mr. Marvin and Mrs. Sutton are Clarkson alumni and she called the relationship with the school “critical.”
She said the new facility will open up a variety of jobs including mechanical and electrical engineers, production jobs and office jobs; all things that she said come along with running a light manufacturing company.
The site was purchased from Richard Moose and is at the back of a driveway, which will be turned into a roadway, across from Sissonville Road and will be out of sight of the public.
“This particular piece of land was advantageous because we do have the 115 kVA lines that cross the land, there’s rail on the land, natural gas is on the land and there is potential water and sewer that will be serving that land, although that is not a deal breaker for our project,” Mrs. Sutton told lawmakers Monday. “So, for all of those reasons, this particular piece of land has been ideal as well.”
The company, which makes permanent magnet electric motors, secured $15 million in Series A Funding in May from Koch Engineering Solutions and, in the last year, about 50 employees have been hired, Mrs. Sutton said.
As to the future, she said the company has targeted $100 million in sales over the next five years with 300 new employees hired within that five-year span.
The company is currently housed in a 15,000-square-foot space which Clarkson University is increasing to accommodate the company’s growth to 40,000 square feet, which they will use for two to three years, she said.
“So tonight, what I am here to ask for from all of you is a resolution supporting this project for the north country,” she said. “That all of you here are in favor of a project that will bring 300 jobs to the north country that are good paying and living wages with competitive benefits for people living here.”
Production workers have a range in their pay depending on their experience, Mrs. Sutton said, responding to a question raised by legislator Nance A. Arquiett, D-Winthrop.
“They are ranging from the teens to the 20s for production workers,” Mrs. Sutton said.
The company is in a site location analysis, exploring its options and making sure operating in Potsdam was going to be the correct thing from a financial standpoint.
The analysis has taken Mrs. Sutton around the country and she said it has led to the company being willing to pay market rate rent for a project anywhere, but given their druthers, want to stay in Potsdam. Mrs. Sutton said the company is willing to sign a 10-year loan lease with five, five-year extensions.
“We also want to avoid the disruption of moving out of state,” she said. “We are on a growth path that we think is exciting and fantastic for the company and to interrupt that and move it to another state or another region is something that we don’t think would be in our best interest. We also feel we would lose some key employees if we were to leave St. Lawrence County. There are people who want to live here. It doesn’t matter what the jobs are, they just want to live here.”
She said building in New York state is more expensive than building in other states, due to restrictions and requirements that are placed on any building projects.
“What that means is that we are moving forward and we are asking for state funding of roughly $50 million and we are willing to put $60 million in equipment into the facility here,” Mrs. Sutton told the board. “And that $50 million would ensure that those jobs stay here in Potsdam.”
The company is also looking at funding from the state Energy Research and Development Authority, Empire State Development, the federal Economic Development Administration
Mrs. Sutton said the company has meetings coming up with officials from Empire State Development in the asking of the $50 million, following a year of back and forth of speaking to various agencies.
The $50 million would go toward funding the construction of the factory and the talks ahead would determine who would be the owner of the building once complete, Mrs. Sutton told legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid.
“For New York, the governor has already made several investments in incubators and economic development across the state and this is everything that those investments sought to do,” Mrs. Sutton said. “This project fits squarely into a really great success story for the economic development initiatives set up and put forward. This is effectively the next step in that process.”