Bellows Falls manufacturer celebrates expansion

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. (WCAX) The ribbon was cut Thursday in front of Chroma Technology Corp. in Bellows Falls to celebrate a $22 million expansion. The employee-owned company makes optical filters for cameras and other applications and distributes the product all over the world.

"Very good. Sales are incredibly good," said Paul Millman, the president and CEO.

The expansion roughly doubled the square footage, which makes room for growth. That means the 113 jobs are staying put, and 25 more are being added.

"Vermont is a unique place to do businesses," Millman said. "We have access to public officials, you know, just by calling on the telephone."

Some of those officials were on hand for Thursday's event. New Market tax credits financed about one-third of the public-private development project. The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation helped piece it all together. Owners say without that help, the project wouldn't be possible. The company has had offers to move out of state but it's staying put in Vermont.

"One of the threats to small businesses in rural states is outside ownership making a decision somewhere else to shut down a facility. Whereas when you have employee ownership, that decision is made locally and rarely does that happen," said Adam Grinold of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.

However, there is a downside. Officials say the region continues to struggle to find workers to fill the needed jobs.

"Workforce development is an issue all over the state. It's especially an issue outside of the urban center," Millman said.

The company has already filled 12 of the 25 positions. However, the CEO says recruiting top talent, especially engineers, remains the biggest obstacle.