Mention manufacturing in Saratoga County and Global Foundries is often the first thing that pops into your head. While Global Foundries’ computer chips have certainly renewed the area’s reputation as a production hub within the state, they are a company building on a foundation that existed long before their arrival.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturing is responsible for between 10 and 11 percent, or $2,390 billion, of the country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP). In New York, manufacturing employs 4.5% of the workforce and accounts for just four percent of the state’s total economic output. In 2019, chemical companies were responsible for the largest share of this total, followed by computer and electronics production.
In Saratoga County, those numbers are much higher than the state average. Manufacturing is the third largest employer (behind healthcare and education) and is estimated to make up 10% of jobs. In 2019, the Saratoga County Prosperity Index clocked manufacturing as responsible for 21% of the county’s GDP, a growth of five percent from its 2007 level.
Major manufacturing and fabrication companies have long shaped the course of Saratoga’s history. The land, and more precisely, its interconnected waterways, made this area attractive to settlers. By harnessing the power of water, industry became economically viable. Water provided transportation and power to fuel the milling of grains, and in the time before freezers, harvesting ice was incredibly important. Before the Revolutionary War, logging and paper mills took advantage of these natural resources and were very successful. The factories brought an economic prosperity that allowed other smaller businesses to establish themselves as well.
Today, paper and printing are the ninth largest manufacturing sector in the state. When stiff competition and unsustainable business practices forced other paper mills to shut their doors or move elsewhere, Cottrell Paper remained, as did the continued importance of the industry to this region.
Like its manufacturing counterparts, Cottrell Paper relies on an abundant water supply.
“Water is the key to making paper,” said Ben Cottrell. In 1926, his great-grandfather, and his two sons, Frank, and Jim, each contributed $500 towards the $1,500 used to purchase the Rock City Falls building where the Cottrell family is still making paper today.
Cottrell Paper. Photo by Kacie Cotter-Sacala.
Cottrell Paper is a family-owned and operated business that makes the electrical insulating and specialty papers used in almost every household appliance, as well as motors and transformers. The process for making these papers is very different than the one used to make notebook or toilet paper. Insulating papers are produced at a rate of just 100 feet/minute (compared to the 10,000 feet/minute that a tissue manufacturer churns out).
Nevertheless, when other area paper mills disappeared, Cottrell Paper was able to step-in and fill the void.
This is due, in a large part, to their willingness to reinvest in their operation.
“Many of the smaller companies disappeared because they did not put their resources back into their equipment. That’s the opposite of our philosophy and that’s how you get to produce paper for 96 years,” said Cottrell.
Cottrell Paper invests between $500,000 and $1 million annually in capital improvement projects (that’s as much as 12.5% of their annual $8 million in revenue).
When the pandemic slowed orders, Cottrell Paper used the downtime to create a unique new product. In 2021, they became the only company in the country to produce a 100% hemp paper.
“People were looking for a more sustainable product so we started experimenting,” said Cottrell.
In 20 years, one acre of hemp can produce as much as four to ten acres of trees without the use of herbicides and pesticides. However, because hemp holds in a lot of moisture, most other hemp products contain an average of 75% wood pulp. Creating papers that are 100% hemp was a challenge that took considerable time and trial-and-error but today, Cottrell Paper has succeeded where others weren’t able to and are making a sustainable hemp packaging product with good insulating properties.
Sustainability is embedded into the way Cottrell Paper does business. They use between 200 – 250,000 gallons of water per day from the Kayaderosseras Creek and take responsibility for maintaining this essential shared community resource very seriously.
“What we take in, we send back out,” said Cottrell, about their usage (which results in water that’s more chemically pure being returned to the river than when it was drawn in).
In a procedure that is regulated by the NYDEC, sand filters even the muddiest waters from the river, creating a pristine liquid at an optimum 7.0 PH for processing. After manufacturing, the remains of the cotton used to make Cottrell papers is completely scraped off, captured, and composted. The newly clarified water is then pumped out completely clear. When conditions are favorable, Cottrell Paper’s two hydroelectric turbines yield up to 500 kilowatts of power from the current.
“We’re not some big conglomerate corporation, we’re run by a family that cares,” said Cottrell. They care about the environment and the people working for them. With 43 full-time employees, as well as part-time personnel and consultants on their payroll, safety is a priority for the plant. By offering exceptional health benefits, 401K plans, accrued paid vacation days, and profit sharing, Cottrell Paper makes their employees feel like family.
In a recent report, the New York Reserve’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that new orders and shipments plunged during the first week of August. It was the second largest monthly decline on record and the biggest drop since April 2020.
The outlook is not optimistic for the next six months, the report indicated, citing a weakening domestic demand, high inflation, and rising interest rates as constraints on the industry.
Despite this bleak prediction for the state, the LISSMAC Corporation, whose US headquarters are located in Mechanicville, is experiencing record highs.
LISSMAC is a German-based company that started building metal finishing equipment and construction machinery in 1980. Vice President Ingo Heiland has been with them since October 2011, when they had just two employees working in the States. Today LISSMAC employs 22 at their 22,500 sq. ft. facility which earns an annual revenue of $12.5 million. Of that, they typically spend between $300 - $400,000 locally on components and consumables.
“In 2021we had a record year, and 2022 looks very, very promising,” said Heiland, whose confidence comes from a future that’s all about innovation.
“We produce machines that eliminate manpower and manual operations. The cost of labor has increased so much and its difficult to get people so there’s an increasing demand for our machines,” he said.
The power of being at the forefront of this societal shift is evident by the challenges LISSMAC has overcome. In 2020, the pandemic made travel difficult for their service representatives. Supply chain issues made the cost of transferring their machines back and forth to Germany increasingly expensive. The cost of shipping containers (when they were available) more than doubled from between five and six thousand dollars to as much as $15,000 each. Finding components also became challenging and costs rose to five times as much as they’d previously been.
Although their products are quite high-tech, LISSMAC’s jobs are still approachable to enter into for the mechanically-inclined worker. LISSMAC prefers to do all their training in-house and offers attractive benefit packages that include 100% health insurance coverage, life and short-term disability coverage. They strive for a family atmosphere in the workplace and give employees 10 paid holidays each year. Service techs earn extra perks including airline miles and hotel points.
Moving into the future also means being environmentally-conscious in the world’s changing climate.
“I’m of European heritage,” said Heiland, “so I always like the environmentally and economically conscious version of things.” He recently purchased a fully-electric company car, strives to use a minimum amount of paper in the office and has installed LED lighting throughout their building. In the future, they hope to expand, at which time he’d like to install a solar photovoltaic roof.
Saratoga County Manufacturing
Wire EDM, turning, milling, and grinding of parts for the defense, education, energy, medical, and transportation industries.
Chemicals for the dairy, brewery, and laundry industries.
Semiconductor, solar, and automated display equipment.
Extraction of minerals from clay.
Adhesives, sealants, coatings, encapsulants, composites, saturants, and specialty chemicals.
Metal containers for beverage, personal care, and household products.
Disinfectants and sanitation solutions for agriculture, brewing, oil and gas, wastewater treatment and other industries.
Washroom accessories and toilet partitions.
Packaging and tissue products.
Metal and plastic parts and assemblies.
Electrical insulation and specialty papers.
Military and industrial power supplies and transformers.
Custom chemicals for various industrial and consumer markets.
Air, gas, and liquid filtration supplies.
Precast concrete, burial vaults, electrometric liners, and security gate systems.
Liquid storage containers and fire shelter bags.
High performance ceramic fibers and materials.
Chemicals for industrial water treatment, rubber additives, specialty coatings, and more.
Surface finishing, parts-washing, and advanced robotic machines.
Metal finishing machines.
Precision machined parts for use in various industries.
Polyurethane adhesives, foams, expansion joints and coatings.
Design, marketing, printing, and packaging.
Control panels, pneumatic and component assemblies.
Paper, pulp, packaging, and wood products.
More than 1,000 silicone compounds.
Design, engineering, and manufacturing of gas turbine parts.
Aluminum and uPVC/PVC windows.
Cranes, heavy lifting, storage systems and clean room equipment.