Georgia on My Mind

by Steve MacDonald

Before 9am yesterday morning I had no idea who Foss Manufacturing was in Hampton New Hampshire.  Now, I’m something of an expert.  For example, back in 2008 Foss managed to get a grant for $450,000 dollars (Hampton Union) to help them buy some equipment.  In exchange for that they promised to create 25 new jobs with 60% of those earmarked for low to moderate income workers but as of 2010 they were seeking a second extension and had not yet fulfilled the requirement.

When Foss got approved for the Block Grant, which I believe was wrangled as usual through the NH-Business Finance Authority, the town itself, and the Coastal Economic Development Corporation (CEDC, aka; a local Federal sphincter for disposing of handouts), the Hampton facility had 435 employees.  So the goal, at least in my mind, would be to get to 460 employees in Hampton. They were not, after all, getting free money to have fewer employees.

They got the money, the equipment, and have opened new lines and product options since, but in 2009 dropped down to only 321 employees; in June of 2010 Foss was back to about 357 employees; as of September 2012 were at around 375.

That’s not 460.  So would you be surprised if I told you they just got a $1.6 million dollar loan in March 2012 and have promised to add 45 more employees because of that?

In March of 2012 the BFA and CEDC arranged for $1.6 million dollar loan for help them reorganize their debt.  Foss had promised that this would help them add 40-45 more jobs, presumably in New Hampshire, where they are still 95 jobs short of having the number of jobs expected after the 2008 loan.

Did I mention that they just invested 15 million to open a facility in Rome Georgia?  (Georgia Go. Nathan Deal was happy.)

Foss created 150 jobs there.  I know they were given some tax and utility rate incentives by that State.  And they (Foss) are insisting that the choice of location was driven by their customers seeking a regional manufacturer, but I’m skeptical.  And why not.  My pal Google can’t seem to find out when or where Foss satisfied the original Grant requirement for 25 jobs at the Hampton location that is currently almost 100 positions short of the 460 that would have satisfied the requirement for the original $450,000.00. (In a perfect world.)

I’m sure it is all on the up an up.

But I’m also reasonably certain that Foss may have been a benefactor of the New Hampshire Business Energy Conservation Revolving Loan Fund (not confirmed), also managed through the BFA, to funnel energy improvement grants to local businesses like FOSS, who had no trouble finding 15 million to create 150 jobs in a Right to Work State like Georgia, but is struggling to add 25 jobs in Hampton.

To be fair, they may have had to pay back that $450K block grant (or more likely made other arrangements) and Google is just playing me for the fool.  And the current investment group that owns and runs FOSS, did buy it up out of bankruptcy and save the facility.  And the expansion in Georgia is creating jobs even if they are not here in New Hampshire.  But to hear that they are still getting tax payer loans to restructure debt six years later, and are promising more local jobs as a result–when they never delivered the original jobs, makes me suspicious.

In 2012 Foss became the number one recipient of state managed subsidies in New Hampshire with the $1.6 million dollar loan.  But the only result of that restructuring so far (that I found) appears to be the new plant in Rome Georgia, where they are hiring 150 workers.  The Hampton plant is still under 400.

So now you know why Georgia is on my mind.

And yes, the Foss Executives still claim to be committed to Hampton, but then what else are they supposed to say?


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