Berlin welcomes Canadian manufacturing company to Chapman Business ComplexBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
May 15. 2017 8:34AM
BERLIN - In choosing the City that Trees Built for his company's expansion into the United States, Serge Jacques said he considered four criteria: availability of labor, proximity to his existing operation and to customers, the Buy America Act and the number of French-Canadians in local cemeteries.
Jacques, the CEO of Deflex Composite, was in Berlin on Friday to celebrate the news that the company, will soon expand to space in the Chapman Business Complex.
The remarks, which Jacques made in French that was then translated into English by Beno Lamontagne, who is the bilingual North Country industrial agent for the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, cracked up the room Friday morning at the Chapman Business Complex on Jericho Road.
Jacques, Lamontagne said, had been “thrilled” to find that Berlin has very strong Franco-Canadian roots, before jokingly reminding him that “there's a lot of us that are still alive.”
The jocularity underscored a serious issue: Berlin, which used to be the North Country's primary economic engine, is rising up, again, by degrees, and now it was thanks to Les frères Jacques - Serge and Bruno - who in 1990, in a rented garage in Quebec, offered fiberglass subcontracting services.
Deflex Composite initially made deflectors for all-terrain vehicles and now has 60 employees who work in a 30,000-square foot facility in Saint-Victor, Quebec, making a variety of products, including water slides for Universal Studios and deflectors for Nova Bus.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Volvo Bus Corporation, Nova Bus, which describes itself as “the world's second largest motorcoach and transit bus manufacturing group,” is based in Saint-Eustache, Quebec.
Nova Bus makes its buses in Plattsburgh, N.Y., which Serge Jacques pointed out, happens to be roughly equidistant - about a three hour's drive - from Saint-Victor, Saint-Eustache and Berlin.
Making components for Nova buses in Berlin, or anywhere in the U.S., makes a lot of financial sense to companies such as Deflex Composite, because the Buy America Act, which went into effect in 1983, gives preference to domestically produced materials on mass-transportation procurements that are federally funded.
Jacques said Deflex Composite will hire three employees in Berlin to start and expects the number to grow to up to 15 in two years. Deflex will lease 16,000 square feet in the Chapman Business Complex and owner Bob Chapman said he is looking forward to the company eventually, occupying the entire 52,00 square foot facility.
Lamontagne said he and Michael Bergeron, DRED's senior business development manager, have been in conversations with Deflex Composite since 1999.
He added that when he and Bergeron make their pitches to Canadian companies to come to New Hampshire the “attention getter” for the companies is that the Granite State, compared to its neighbors, has no sales, income, equipment or inventory taxes. Deflex Composite will bring good jobs to Berlin, Lamontagne said, with hourly wages in the $15-16 range. Chapman, who is well known in the North Country for his multiple efforts to revive the regional economy, including in Berlin and in Groveton, thanked Lamontagne, Bergeron and DRED, as well as District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney and, more recently, Gov. Chris Sununu, for their efforts. Although Sununu wasn't present for Friday's announcement at the Chapman Business Complex, the governor weighed in on the news that Deflex Composite is coming to Berlin via a press release. He noted that last month, the company had participated in a webinar he hosted.
“New Hampshire welcomes Deflex Composite to Berlin,” Sununu said. “We are committed to doing everything possible to reach out and promote what New Hampshire has to offer.”
DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose said Berlin, with its French-Canadian roots, “is a great location for this company to grow its presence on this side of the border.”