Editorial: Return of factory jobs to Bendix site a good reason to celebrate

  • The former Bendix building at the end of Laurel Street Extension in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Monday, November 06, 2017

It’s been a long time since Greenfield has seen 85 jobs come to town in one shot.

So there is good reason to celebrate plans of a Holyoke-based container company to build an 85,314-square-foot factory on the former Bendix property on Laurel Street.

The project, if approved by the town Planning Board, will restore a long-idle former industrial property to commercial use.

A second bonus: Although the town has granted a property tax break of $1.2 million over 15 years to International Container of Holyoke, the manufacturer will be restoring the property to the tax rolls, so that the town will see a net gain to its tax base over time. The town has owned the land for about a decade, after the failure of a pallet-maker on the site.

International Container has promised to create 67 full-time jobs, to bring more than a dozen others from its Holyoke base and to invest $12.9 million on the site.

International specializes in roll-off, hook-lift and rear-load commercial waste and recycling containers. The manufacturer has submitted a site plan and special permit application to the town Planning Board under major development review.

In the late 20th century, the site was home to a Bendix tool-making factory, which when it closed turned out to be a groundwater contamination source that took many years to clean. Cutting oil and degreaser fluid were discarded at the site. Both the town and Bendix owner Honeywell International, which was blamed for the pollution, have spent years cleaning the groundwater contamination that drifted from the site, and at one point spread as far as the Green River at River Road.

The International project includes the demolition of the remaining building on the site and the construction of a new factory that will produce its containers.

“The property has been idle for quite some time, leading to unsightly aesthetics and dumping of various wastes,” International’s application states, adding, “The proposed project will increase the aesthetics and cleanliness of the site through removal of the rundown building, parking lot, invasive vegetation and ongoing environmental mitigation within the development area.”

The company estimates the new facility will create employment opportunities for shop technicians and office staff, and will likely have a total of 85 employees. Its application raised the prospect for adding two new product lines, which could provide an additional 20 to 25 jobs.

The prospect of new factory jobs and a long-term addition to the tax base is good news for Greenfield, which in past decades has seen factory jobs shrink, not grow. And while we wish International could have been drawn here without the tax breaks, 85 jobs seems like a reasonable trade-off in these times.

We trust the town’s planners will scrutinize the plan to be sure it complies with Greenfield’s large-scale development rules and long-term economic growth plans, that it doesn’t detract from the immediate neighborhood and ensures that — on balance — the town’s residents and taxpayers benefit from the jobs and taxes International promises to bring.