Meriden manufacturer in ‘survival mode’ seeks support from city  



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MERIDEN — Local manufacturer Jonal Labs Inc. has endured uncertainty during the pandemic that company President Marc Nemeth thought would be over in a year.

Nemeth put the company’s expansion plans on hold as supply delays and industry disruptions created more uncertainty in military and civilian markets. 

“I’ve been terribly wrong,” Nemeth said about the pandemic’s duration. “We thought we would be back on the horse in a year. Our long-term plans are to expand. But our short to medium plans are switch to survival mode. I don’t expect to be seeing progress on the shop floor in the near future.”

Jonal bought 200 Research Parkway, the former Midstate ARC building, in February for $1.1 million, The goal was to show customers Jonal had the capacity to accept more production contracts. The plan was to move equipment over to the new facility from its headquarters on Center Street and a stamping operation at 290 Pratt St. But the pandemic added more risk. 

“All these people we’ve associated with suggested we look at some sort of tax deferral,” Nemeth said. “We wanted to talk to (the city) and make sure we didn’t get ahead of ourselves. They said we certainly can’t do something specifically for Jonal but let’s see what we can do for manufacturing. It may have been the spark that lit the flame.”

Jonal Labs is one of several companies City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest is talking to about their expansion needs. Feest developed a tax abatement proposal for existing manufacturers that includes eight-year tax abatements for operators with one facility looking to purchase another building, operators with two facilities who want to buy a third and he added a third qualifier on Tuesday night: Operators who add at least a $3 million expansion onto an existing facility. The eight-year abatement would cover the addition only.

“This added more potential for people to take advantage of this,” Feest said. “We want to encourage their investment in the city and jobs. I wanted to put all the manufacturing incentives together.”

On Tuesday, the city’s Economic Development Housing and Zoning Committee voted to recommend the full manufacturing tax abatement plan to the City Council. 

”This is a tool we can use to keep manufacturing in town,” Feest told committee members. “Sometimes they feel forgotten. We wanted to have this in one abatement, instead of having a separate one. If you as a group vote in favor, this is the last time we touch this one.” 

The additional location has to have been purchased within a year of the resolution passing and the abatement can only be used for one expansion and the new building must have a purchase price of over $600,000.

Feest said the proposal was not drafted specifically for Jonal but to help all manufacturers interested in expanding their operations in the city. 

Nemeth said the city was interested in ways it can help existing manufacturers who can’t take advantage of new business incentives. Jonal, a rubber seal manufacturing company whose client list includes Pratt & Whitney, leases 10,000 square feet at 290 Pratt St. and maintains its headquarters on Center Street.

Jonal makes flame resistant seals — the O-rings on the International Space Station — and other products at its Center Street shop. The company saw tremendous growth from 2015 to 2019 and is expanding into products for vehicles. 

“Our initial plans for Research Parkway was to first demo the walls in the west side of the building and then plot our usage there,” Nemeth said. “We went to the city and they stated it was a new use: so we needed an architect to provide details to our plans and that’s where we are now. COVID hit our industry and us very hard and we are dealing with those issues now.”

The tax abatement will help, he added.

“We’re excited about it,’ Nemeth said. “Anytime we have more capital to invest in the business and people is good. Everybody thinks it’s a good idea. It looks good. We’ll see how it goes.”

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz



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