Keeping manufacturing in Connecticut begins with one company at a time.
A Swiss-based firm that moved its North American headquarters to Shelton early this year is an example of the cutting-edge technology such firms can use, and the well-paying jobs provided in the process.
The company, EAO, produces what are known as “human machine interfaces” — or what are essentially high-end control systems.
With products made by EAO, touch screens, switches and push buttons are used to manipulate controls for trains, industrial machines, medical equipment, heavy-duty specialty vehicles — and even special coffee makers in airplanes.
More of its products now are fully assembled systems rather than individual controls, or what are called “next generation” devices. “The integration side is growing,” said Lance A. Scott, EAO president.
While the company also has production sites in Europe and China, it must work closely on a timely basis with its American-based clients. The company must constantly reinvest in its products and manufacturing capabilities to keep on top.
“Things like gesture recognition and 3D printing are happening so quickly, we need to be close to the customer,” Scott said. “We need to have quick interaction with engineering.”
The company’s U.S. facility had been in Milford for almost four decades, but moved in January to a Parrott Drive building along Shelton’s Bridgeport Avenue corridor.
A larger manufacturing space was required because of the need to produce the fully assembled systems.
Lance said he likes the new Shelton location, where the company has 23 full-time and six part-time employees.
The new manufacturing facility is modern and clean looking.
“It’s stunning,” said Bill Purcell, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce president. “They’ve done a beautiful job. And they’re a leader in their industry.”
Jonathan Garrity, president of building owner Cambridge Hanover, called EAO “a wonderful tenant. I think the space has turned out great.”
Mayor Mark Lauretti said he’s pleased another company has chosen Shelton. “It just reinforces we’ve done the right thing for our business community and our residents,” he said.
John F. Anglace Jr., Board of Aldermen president, said the EAO headquarters is “most welcome” and “helps with the tax base” in Shelton. He hopes the company also becomes involved in supporting the community and nonprofit activities.
State incentives played role
The company received financial assistance from the state’s Small Business Express program, allowing it to open a new facility and hire more people.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had promoted the Small Business Express program while at the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Rob Michalik of the state Department of Economic and Community Development said more than 1,000 companies now have been helped by Small Business Express, and EAO “ is among the prime examples of the program’s success.”
Peter M. Gioia, vice president and economist with the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said EAO makes products used by manufacturers in fields doing well in today’s economy, such as heavy-duty vehicles and aerospace.
“It’s a state-of-the art facility,” Gioia said.