In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on manufacturers to bring plants back to the United States. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he wants to make the state “open for business” again and encourage the expansion of small businesses throughout the state.
For Hudson, it has not been uncommon to hear a manufacturer is leaving town or downsizing its operation.
But Craftech Industries, one of the city’s longest-tenured manufacturers, has not only been weathering the tough economic climate but is poised to expand its business.
“There has been a lot of talk of bringing manufacturing back to this country, especially in this area,” said Ronald Prior, general manager at Craftech. “This company has been around for over 40 years and has survived and in some cases thrived in some very challenging times.”
The company manufactures custom plastic fasteners, components and shapes for 4,000 companies across the globe, and has secured the space formerly held by E.A. Morse building and maintenance, renovating the building to move some of the cramped production space.
Joe Story is working with an auto-jector machine which forms plastic around a steel bolt. He extracts the bolt and trims the flashing off the plastic part. Craftech General Manager Ronald Prior (right) explained some of the particularities of the process to Hudson Mayor William Hallenbeck who was touring the shop. Photo taken by David Lee/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers.
Several of the machines have been in use since the World War II era, creating simpler pieces, while others are complex computer numerical control machines capable of creating 1,000 plastic pieces in a matter of days. Once expanded, the company will either shift those WWII era machines or its injection molding machines, and expand the CNC machines.
“We intend to move one of our production divisions over there to make room for some new things,” said Prior. “We intend to expand our CNC division high precision cutting and tooling, bringing in new lines of production.”
The manufacturer has been in Columbia County since 1967, and in Hudson since 1978. The building sits on a 22,000-square-foot campus with machines that cut down plastics into parts as well as a separate full service injection molding plant.
Craftech creates everything from plastic fasteners, nuts and bolts to pieces for military and medical equipment, and its clientele includes everything from aerospace to aquatic farming.
“All kinds of simple things,” said Company President Irving Gerard. “You’d be surprised at all the little things you need to keep civilization humming along.”
Prior said with the expansion the need for skilled labor will also increase.
“One of the challenges we have is skilled labor,” he said. “We will provide in-house training but to be able to respond to the dynamic business climate we are in, where we need to expand our capacity faster, we’ll need skilled laborers, people that can run CNC machines.”
According to Prior, the problem is not a lack of talent in the area, but a lack of recognition of the manufacturer. Besides being in Hudson for almost four decades, he said the company has flown under the radar.
“Before I started working here I had no clue that this place was here,” he said.
The company is looking toward not only college graduates but those in trade schools like Questar. Those who work there have also looked to their more experienced coworkers for an apprenticeship-like training to learn how to bridge the gap of mathematical and geometrical knowledge with skills and craftsmanship necessary for creating the machines that make the parts.
Molding and Mold Maintenance Supervisor Michael Tice has helped to build five of the robots that work in the injection molding facility. He has worked as a mechanic for almost 30 years and has transitioned those skills to building the robotics, a “god given gift” that he said was reminiscent of his father’s.
Some of the employees’ job descriptions cover several responsibilities. William Osborn, for example, writes the programs that set the machines’ timing and tell it where and how to cut and mold the pieces of plastic to material hauling.
“It’s almost like working five different jobs,” he said.
Depending on the order size, he may have to tweak programs or write completely new ones from as often as a monthly basis to a day and a half.
Prior said Craftech has been in contact with Congressman Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony within the next few months, and that the expansion would not be fully complete for another two or three financial quarters.
Hudson Mayor Bill Hallenbeck was given a tour of the facility, and said the years it has been in the city is a testament to the business.
“They’ve been a great neighbor here and have employed residents for many years,” said Hallenbeck. “Hudson certainly appreciates their expansion and the potential for hiring more in the future. It’s quite the operation down there and the city will continue supporting them; we’re glad they are here.”
(Reprinted with the permission of the Hudson Register-Star.)
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