First company to get Bradley Zone incentives, Nufern, takes off


At right: Harlan Levy / Journal Inquirer Martin Seifert, right, President of East Granby’s Nufern and Vice President Bryce Samson stand next to a machine making a glass fiber with a hydrogen-oxygen torch.

From the Journal Inquirer

WINDSOR LOCKS — Before hundreds of cheering employees and state and local officials, Martin Seifert, president of Nufern — the East Granby maker of optical fibers, fiber optic coils, and fiber lasers and amplifiers — cut a ribbon on Friday, officially marking the completion of its multimillion-dollar expansion.

In the green-tinted gleaming glass building that went from 65,000 square feet to 90,000, Nufern, founded in 2000, makes about 1,000 products as diverse as devices used in producing iPhones, the gyroscope coils for the Trident missile, and fibers relaying information from the Martian environment to the Mars vehicle Curiosity.

Nufern was the first company approved for the Bradley Development Zone by the Connecticut Airport Authority. Three others have followed Nufern’s lead.

The zone, a designated area surrounding the airport in East Granby, Suffield, Windsor, and Windsor Locks, gives airport-related businesses and manufacturers that expand and add jobs there a 10-year 25 percent corporate business tax credit and a 5-year 80 percent exemption on taxes on machinery and equipment.

The tax breaks supported Nufern’s decision to close its Maryland facility and consolidate in East Granby and significantly helped defray the cost of the expansion.

“It showed us how interested the state and community are to have us here,” Seifert said. “When you put a plant in like this you’re not an island. You absolutely need to have assurances that the people want you here because there are lots of places to go, lots of opportunities.”

The 80 percent, five-year tax rebate on machinery and equipment was also a “very significant” factor, Seifert added.

As required, Nufern has added jobs — 50 since the expansion.

“We’re figuring that probably by the end of this calendar year we’ll be at around 200 people,” Seifert said, “more than double where we were in November last year.”

For Nufern, the economy is very good. “We are growing as fast as we can,” Seifert said. “Next year we will grow by more than 50 percent. It’s not hundreds of millions, but it’s tens of millions. This year is a modest growth year, still multidigit, but most of our effort this year was to get the infrastructure in place in preparation for next year.”

Why is Nufern doing so well? “We are at the absolute edge of technology,” Seifert explained. “Look, for example, at Apple. That’s where we are — right at that edge. But that also means it’s volatile. It can crash just as fast, so nowadays we have four irons in the fire, four businesses.”

“Nufern is just the type of company the state is encouraging to grow,” state Economic Development Commissioner Catherine Smith said at the grand opening. “It’s a high-tech, highly adaptable and forward-thinking company, best equipped to survive in the ever-changing global marketplace and grow in the new economy.”

But Nufern’s path to success was far from pain-free.

The company began in 2000 as a venture-capital-funded telecom start-up. “We raised more than $60 million of venture capital, and we ramped like hell into telecom, building up to 2000,” Seifert recalled. “In 2001 it was exactly the same ramp rate, only the sign had changed. We did not know what to do. It was all over for us. We did not have a customer. We barely had our products, and our facility was just coming online, costing about $1 million a month. It was a pretty spectacular time. Nobody had it worse than we did.”

Seifert and the other executives had little choice but to reinvent the company, “and we’re probably going to reinvent ourselves many more times,” he said.

The company diversified into four businesses, “and all four are ramping aggressively,” Seifert said. Nufern has a fiber business and is adding capital equipment and human resources and an industrial laser business for marking a wide range of items “that’s also ramping enormously, and that’s tripled in floor space,” Seifert said. Nufern also has a growing government defense business for high-powered beam-combinable lasers and a gyroscope business.

A key factor for this and similar high-tech ventures is its location close to the airport.

“Probably 60 percent or more of our business is overseas, so we do a lot of traveling,” said Vice President Bryce Samson. “We’re shipping stuff all over the world, so being close to the airport is very attractive, and it’s a great airport. It’s a good size. It’s not like a big JFK-type one, and it’s not so small that you can’t fly to many locations.

“And overall Connecticut is an attractive state for people to relocate to. The schools are very good. It’s a clean and friendly state. It’s very close to Boston. It’s very close to New York.”

Seifert added: “There’s great access to institutions of higher learning. There’s a diverse base of educated people here. We have a lot of quality-of-life amenities, so it’s not hard to get people to come here.”

However, Nufern, like other high-tech companies nationwide, has trouble finding employees with the desired skill sets.

“There’s a skill shortage, and it’s very dramatic in the Northeast,” Samson said, “so I would say finding skilled people can be very difficult, and I don’t think we’re unique.”

As to the origin of Nufern’s name, after the company bought its predecessor firm, Redfern Fiber, located in Redfern, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, it moved to the U.S. and was renamed using the word “nu,” a wavelength measurement and a play on “new.”

Nufern expansion tribute to lure of Bradley zone
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