A Manchester manufacturer pushed itself out of its comfort zone and started exploring opportunities in other countries, which netted it both success and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “Exporter of the Year” award.
Michael Polo, president of AdChem Manufacturing Technologies, said the export of aircraft engine components started when one of his customers moved from San Diego to Singapore.
“From that one move our business has increased 50 percent,” Polo said at an award ceremony Wednesday. “That was the kick in the pants I needed to realize that there are so many more opportunities beyond on our country’s borders.”
“Our future growth in Connecticut is connected to the world market and we are focused on that market,” Polo said.
But while he focused mainly on the success the company has had over the past year, Polo also said there are many challenges it faces as a small manufacturer.
Two concerns topping his list are the price of electricity and health insurance.
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson who was on hand for the presentation said the state legislature really needs to tackle the high cost of energy and invest in making it right here in Connecticut. He said at the federal level they’ve made tax credits available, but companies need to take advantage of it.
Matt Peak, a member of the Manchester Board of Directors, said in 2008 the town helped create an energy improvement district in the Manchester business park where AdChem is located. So in the coming years it can create a fuel cell power plant and create its own electricity and “break the monopoly the one utility company has,” Peak said.
In addition the Manchester Business Park Association is studying the peak demand on the energy grid within the park, he said.
As for health care costs, Polo said his went up 28 percent last year. He said instead of passing the increase along to its 46 employees they decided to make cuts elsewhere.
“The health care bill for small businesses won’t take effect until 2014, so for a number of people that’s a long wait,” Larson said. “It just seems to me that there’s an awful lot of arbitrary raising of prices and no public option so that there could be the counterbalancing force to drive the prices back down. But we’ll see that in the future.”
“I know everyone’s trying to blame the health care bill,” Larson said. “The health care bill isn’t even in effect…Every day American people get that.”
The two biggest issues Polo faces in purchasing insurance for his employees is size, he has fewer than 100 employees, and age. The average age of his employees is 50.
“Because we’re a small company we’re overweight in age. Frankly I like that,” Polo said. “That skill set to me is very, very important.”
Larson said he doesn’t believe the new health care bill increased rates. He said the new health care bill gives insurance companies 47 million more customers than they had before.
While taxes are another concern for Polo, Anne Evans of the U.S. Department Commerce, said when companies from other countries come to Connecticut they’re focusing on “this is actually a very nice place to live.”
She said she’s seen Chief Executive magazine’s survey, which ranked Connecticut as the 45th best state to do business, and her first thought was, “Gee, they don’t know Connecticut’s the center of the universe.”
“We live in the greatest country in the world,” Larson said. He said since the start of the recession the nation has lost about $11 trillion in personal wealth and assets and while it’s recovering the government needs to cut spending, grow the economy, and make government more efficient. He said in order to do that government bodies need to work together instead of “butting heads.”