Prudential Breaks Ground on NH Cleanroom Plant
(l/r) Armand Soulier, Dacon Corp.; Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess; Stefan Schurter, POS; Carmen Lorentz, NH Econ Development; Jim Petropulos, American Laundry Systems (ALS) consultant; Gerard O’Neill, ALS; Chuck Reilly, Dacon; Meeraj Mehta, ALS
Reflecting California-based Prudential Overall Supply’s (POS’) growing competitive presence on the Eastern Seaboard, company officials joined with local and state leaders in Nashua, NH, for a Sept. 28 groundbreaking ceremony that signaled the start of construction of a new cleanroom plant projected to be the largest facility of its kind in the United States.
This $15-million-plus POS investment will relieve pressure on a similar POS cleanroom plant in Richmond, VA, that currently employs 123 people. The new 70,000-square-foot Nashua plant is expected to employ roughly 50 people to start, with second- and third-phase expansion increasing its size to 115,000 square feet, said Stefan Schurter, senior vice president of POS.
The ceremony attracted about 50 local leaders. On hand were representatives from American Laundry Systems (ALS), Haverhill, MA, which is planning and engineering the plant; and Dacon Corp., a contractor based in Natick, MA, which will oversee construction of this Class III ISO cleanroom facility. The new plant should begin running sometime in the second or third quarter of 2017, ALS President and CEO Gerard O’Neill said.
“It will not just be Nashua’s largest cleanroom plant, not just New England’s largest cleanroom plant, or the East Coast’s,” Schurter said. “This will be the largest cleanroom laundry in the United States. It’s really going to be a unique achievement. It’s a first of a kind. We’re really proud that we can build it. And I think it will really bring great jobs.”
Previously established in the East with cleanroom operations, the company acquired operations in August 2015 from Coyne Textile Services, expanding POS industrial laundry rental service into Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. This also put Alabama, Maryland and Washington DC within POS’ reach.
Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess welcomed the POS project as the latest effort by city, regional and state officials to draw good jobs in technically advanced industries to Nashua and the Granite State at large. “We look forward to the jobs that we’re going to bring and the ethic you have as an employer,” he said, adding that POS isn’t bringing “$7.25-an hour, 20-hour a week jobs, but well-paying jobs, with good benefits where people have a stake in the company. We really think that’s a good thing for our community and our state. We’re really glad to have this cross-country partnership.”
In his address, Schurter gave a backgrounder on POS, starting with how the founder, John Clark, an “Iowa farm boy” set off for Los Angeles in 1932 and later founded a business by transporting soiled workwear from California oil rigs to a local Chinese laundry for processing. From there, POS grew along with the Golden State’s industrial economy. By the 1960s, it expanded into cleanroom services as aerospace companies revved up to meet the demands generated by the U.S. space program. The technology required for these systems included the use of special workwear by employees that would keep dust and soil away from sensitive electronic components, he said. Prudential developed a specialty service to launder these garments, and that division is now known as Prudential Cleanroom Services.
One enduring legacy of POS’s Depression-era origins is the fact that the company has always avoided indebtedness, Schurter said. To this day, POS remains “debt-free” and is funding the new plant from cash reserves alone, he said.
Another longstanding POS principle is looking out for employees, he said. They, in turn, help fuel the company’s growth. Schurter pointed out that in 1958 POS began a profit-sharing program for all nonunion employees that continues to this day, along with a strong program of healthcare and other employee benefits. “We truly believe that if you invest in people, people will invest back in you,” he said, emphasizing the importance of partnering with staff as critical to the company’s growth.
Schurter added that POS neither requested nor received any special benefits or incentives to locate in Nashua. The city’s sewer/water, electrical and natural gas infrastructure accommodate POS’s needs, a huge plus, he noted. Moreover, the city and state’s pro-business climate meant that city officials didn’t impose costly and burdensome environmental-impact studies or other regulatory hurdles – as some jurisdictions do.
For its part, POS pledged to be a good neighbor in managing its 14.5-acre tract of now-undeveloped land. That includes ensuring that residents will continue to have unfettered access to a Boys and Girls Club located adjacent to the POS property, Schurter said. The plant also will bring minimal noise and traffic to the site, located in a suburban industrial park, he said. “Some of the neighbors wondered how many trucks we’re going to have here,” Schurter said. “This is not a UPS terminal. All the trucks will be inside. We’re going to build garages. There’s not going be a lot of noise that we’re creating. This is a cleanroom, high-tech facility.”
Other dignitaries at the event included Carmen Lorentz, the state’s Division of Economic Development director. She read a statement from Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) welcoming POS and praising its decision to locate in Nashua. “I join you in celebrating this exciting new development for Prudential Overall Supply, for Nashua and the entire state,” Lorentz said, reading from the governor’s statement. “New Hampshire stands at the threshold of a bright new future.”
After the statements, Chuck Reilly, vice president of Dacon Corp., presented ceremonial shovels to Schurter and O’Neill as a gesture of goodwill toward the successful completion of the project. Company and public officials, including Mayor Donchess, then posed for photos tossing shovelfuls of dirt to symbolize the official start of the project.