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Willimantic Chronicle: Courtney is encouraged by a small business' big expansion

August 7, 2015
In The News

WINDHAM — At a time when many businesses across the nation are struggling, Micro Precision LLC, a South Windham company, has managed to grow.

This summer, the company built an 8,700- square- foot addition, nearly doubling the size of its facility. That growth is encouraging for U. S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, who toured the facility with company employees Thursday afternoon. “What everybody wants to see is growth and that’s what we saw here,” he said.

The manufacturing company, located at 1102 Windham Road in South Windham, was one of several area stops for Courtney. Later in the afternoon, he gave the keynote address during the University of Connecticut Student Support Services Summer Program graduation. He also took a tour of the United Services clinical facility at 132 Mansfield Ave. in Willimantic. United Services is a nonprofit behavioral health center with offices throughout the state.

Micro Precision was established in 1989 and has facilities in South Windham and Farmington. The company produces parts for the defense, aerospace and railroad industries. Micro Precision President and CEO Robert Mongell said the building addition began in June and was financed. “They squeezed the most out of every penny,” he said.

In addition to nearly doubling the size of its facility, Mongell said the company will be spending more than $1 million on new equipment in the next few months. Mongell noted the company is level one SUBSAFE, the highest level of certifica­tion through the Navy’s quality assurance program.

One of the companies that Micro Precision works with is Electric Boat, which has a facility in Groton and designs and builds submarines. For example, the company manufactures, assembles and test various components of submarines, including hydraulic accumulators, valves and weapons- handling equipment. “ The proximity to Electric Boat is very critical to a relationship with them,” said Micro Precision general manager Joseph Loffredo. Micro Precision also manufactures train whistles, which were tested during the tour.

As the company grows, Mongell noted the importance of investing in employees. He said the company has a comprehensive benefits package that includes health insurance as well as tuition reimbursement. “We view it as critical to support our people,” said Mongell. He said there are 29 employees working at the Windham facility and 70 working at a Farmington facility. Mongell said the company recruits skilled, dedicated workers. “We have next to no turnover,” he said.

The company is currently seeking skilled machinists. “ We’re great in this country about providing access to education,” said Mongell. However, he noted there is not enough education to inform students about employment opportunities that are available to them. It is a problem Courtney said many companies now face. He noted the investments being made in manufacturing programs at community colleges throughout the state.

For example, there are currently manufacturing courses available at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich and Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson. After the tour, Courtney noted the importance of having skilled workers operate the equipment. “ The equipment now is so expensive,” he said. “They have to know what they’re doing.”

Courtney suggested the company join the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board (EWIB), and promised to speak with EWIB employees on its behalf. EWIB, which has an office in Franklin, is a nonprofit agency that oversees a network of workforce- related programs, including job centers run by the state Department of Labor. “ What you described is just chronic in terms of the workforce needs that are out there,” Courtney said.

Mongell said there must be collaboration between the public and private sectors. “I don’t think the government should bear that entire burden,” he said.