Update: Crane aims to sell technical materials division; no layoffs planned


DALTON - Crane has put its technical materials division up for sale, a company spokesman said on Wednesday. That division, one of three operated by Berkshire County's oldest paper manufacturer, employs 100 workers - all of them based in the Berkshires, according to spokesman Craig Conrad.

Conrad said Crane notified its technical materials division employees of its intentions on Wednesday. No layoffs are planned while the division is on the market.

"The business is operating well," he said. "We think a buyer is going to be very interested in the facility and the employees."

Crane also has reached agreement with an investment bank to help the company find a buyer. Although the division officially went on the market on Wednesday, Conrad said the decision to seek a buyer was discussed during the company's 2013 strategic review.

Crane's technical materials division is profitable, Conrad said, but the industry is consolidating and large global firms have begun buying up the smaller entities.

"We felt it was a good business," Conrad said, "but given what's happening in the industry with the consolidation going on it would be difficult for us to compete."

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, declined to comment because he had yet to speak with company representatives.

The technical materials division makes up 12 percent of Crane's overall revenue, Conrad said. Crane's other divisions are currency, which is based in Dalton, and stationery, based in North Adams. Founded in 1801, Crane has supplied currency paper to the federal government since 1879, and been its sole supplier since 1964.

Based at Ashuelot Park 2 in Pittsfield, Crane's technical materials division takes polymer fibers and inorganic fibers, like glass, and turns them into use for water purification and air filtration systems, and thermal, acoustical and electrical insulation in home and office products, photovoltaic (solar power) systems, and the aerospace business. Crane's technical materials division made its first commercial sales in 1970.

In February 2013, Crane officially unveiled a new state-of-the-art $5 million facility for its technical materials division at Ashuelot Park 2. The company renovated a 30,000-square-foot, two-story building for use as a research facility, and added a 30,000-square-foot production area. Crane has owned the property since 2003.

Conrad said Crane believes the renovated facility will make the technical materials division more appealing to a buyer. About 60 percent of Crane's technical materials employees are stationed at Ashuelot Park 2.

"I think the money that we put into it will make it more attractive," he said. "That's a very state-of-the-art facility with a manufacturing facility and research and development labs."

On Feb. 7, Crane announced a voluntary retirement incentive for the Berkshire County employees in its currency division as a way to reduce or eliminate the need for layoffs. Of the 341 employees in Crane's Berkshire currency operations, 130 qualify for the incentive, Conrad has said.

Crane is expected to know by early March how many employees are interested in taking the incentive package. The company has said it is hoping to reduce its Berkshire currency workforce by a minimum of 60 to 80 employees, some employees have told the Eagle.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224


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