By Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN – Deflex Composite, a Quebec-based advanced composites manufacturing company, is expanding operations to Berlin. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday morning at the former Car-Freshner plant at 22 Jericho Road, where Deflex has signed a lease for 9,600 square feet.
Deflex CEO Serge Jacques and Planner Karyne Jacques said the company will start operation here July 1 with two to three people. Serge Jacques said they deliberately plan to start small with just one component of their operation and gradually expand. Within a year, he said they expect to employ about 15 people in Berlin. He said his daughter, Karyne Jacques, will oversee the Berlin operation.
Deflex has a contract to make fiberglass composite parts for Volvo buses and will move some of that work to Berlin. The company also makes water slides and eventually hopes to move some of that production to Berlin as well.
Deflex officials said a strong motive for opening a plant in the United States is the desire to accommodate American customers who want to buy products made in this country.
Berlin, Jacques noted, is evenly situated between Deflex’s plant in Saint-Victor, Quebec and the Volvo facility in Plattsburg, N.Y.
“The Buy America Act is one of the reasons that we have seen a strong interest from Quebec manufacturers recently,” said Benoit Lamontagne, of the N.H. Division of Economic Development. “This law requires companies under federal contracts to make their end product in the U.S. and more than 50 percent of the cost of the parts must be made here.”
Founded in 1990 by brothers, Serge and Bruno Jacques, Deflex offers first class fiberglass parts and high-level products built to exact specifications. It has grown from 3 to 60 employees and operates a 30,000 square foot plant. With production expected to increase by 30 percent this year, the company decided it was time to open a new plant in the United States.
As Deflex officials chatted in French with Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier and Lamontagne, they made it clear that Berlin’s strong French Canadian roots were also a factor. Deflex consultant Edouard Jacques said he noticed the large number of French Canadian names as drove though one of the local cemeteries.
In welcoming the company, Grenier said hundreds of Canadians, including his family, crossed the border during the early twentieth century to work in the city’s paper mills. Along with hockey and their Roman Catholic religion, he said the Canadians brought their strong work ethic with them.
Benoit Lamontagne said he and Michael Bergeron first met Deflex officials in 2009 at a presentation by the state of New Hampshire in Drummondville, Quebec. He said the two state economic development agents keep in touch with the company over the years. Last month, company officials participated in a webinar hosted by Gov. Chris Sununu.
Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney said Sununu hopes to create similar partnership with other Canadian companies.
“We’re happy you’re here,” he said.
At the same time, Lamontagne and Bergeron looked for potential sites in the North Country for Deflex and identified the Car Freshner plant.
Bob Chapman, owner of the building, praised the work of Lamontagne and Bergeron. He said Deflex will move into the south end of the building and there is plenty of space for them to expand.
Bergeron said they have been in touch with Great Bay Community College about working with its Advanced Technology and Academic Center to provide training.