Could Force Repayment of $475,000 Grant

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, June 26, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — Foss Manufacturing will need more time to live up to its commitment to create 25 new jobs, with 60 percent of those going to people with low or moderate incomes.

The Hampton-based company, which processes woven fabrics and specialty synthetic fibers, is required to create the jobs as part of receiving a $450,000 Community Development Block Grant in 2007.

The Board of Selectmen, which sponsored the grant application, voted this week to send out a letter on behalf of the company requesting a one-year extension on the job creation requirement with the Community Development Finance Authority.

Selectmen Chairman Rick Griffin said selectmen approved sending out the letter because they wanted to help out the business in town. “They are having tough times over there, and we don’t want to make it tougher for them,” Griffin said.

Town Manager Fred Welch said if the extension was not granted, Foss would be required to pay back the money awarded along with penalties and fines.

Welch explained that Foss was supposed to add 25 new jobs to the work force they had in 2007, bringing them up to a total of 460 employees. Currently the company employes 320 persons, down 106 jobs as a result of layoffs that occurred in January. At the time, the “significant” layoffs were attributed to the national recession, in general, and problems in the automotive industry, in particular.

“The extension will allow them to make arrangement to adjust those figures or hire those employees,” Welch said.

The town sponsored the grant on behalf of Foss and the Coastal Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) back in November of 2007.

Community Development Block Grants are available to towns for economic development, public facility and housing rehabilitation projects, and feasibility studies that primarily benefit low- and moderate-income workers.

As part of sponsoring the grant, the town retained $17,000 for administration costs and sub-granted the remaining funds to the CEDC. The CEDC then loaned $475,000 to Foss, which used the money, along with its own capital, to purchase new equipment in order to produce more products and expand its operation.

In April of 2008, the company unveiled a $1.5 million “J-Line,” a state-of-the-art needle-punch line that was touted as something that would allow Foss to expand its operations.

Welch said the town would not be held liable if Foss defaults on the loan or does not meet all the stipulations.

“The town is responsible only to make sure the .paperwork is done,” Welch said.

In a letter sent to the Community Development Finance Authority in support for the extension, Griffin said the company “continues to seek diversification and is currently negotiating new contracts.”

“In order to allow Foss the opportunity to meet its job creation goals, the town of Hampton respectfully requests that the scheduled termination date of the grant be extended from June 30, 2009 to June 30, 2010,” Griffin wrote in the letter.

Foss Manufacturing Co. LLC, has been a global leader in the design and manufacture of non-woven fabrics and specialty synthetic fiber technology for more than 50 years. The company currently occupies a 52,000-square-foot covered facility on a 44-acre parcel in the center of Hampton.

As one of the world’s largest “needle-punch-based” manufacturers, at its peak it employed about 500 workers.