BERLIN — Gov. Chris Sununu toured Deflex Innovations on Wednesday morning, getting an update on the Canadian company that expanded to the city in 2017. Deflex makes fiberglass composite parts for Volvo buses at its Berlin facility.
After the tour, Sununu criticized city leadership, saying the state has done a lot for Berlin, including greatly increasing money for education.
“You have to be asking with all the dollars that we’ve put into Berlin … how are they spending their dollars,” the governor said.
“The rest of the state is doing very, very well economically. Right now, Berlin should be right with them. But it takes local leadership to understand how those dollars are being spent to find those efficiencies, find regional partnerships that can work,” Sununu said. “And I think you need a forensic analysis of where all the dollars have gone up here,” he added.
Sununu charged the city is anti-development on Route 110, where he said the opportunities are phenomenal. The governor said he has heard some of the city council meetings discussing Route 110. When it was pointed out that Route 110 is a state highway, Sununu said the city controls the land along the road and could do more to promote development there.
The council Monday voted to send a letter to N.H. Department of Transportation to explore having the city take ownership of all of Route 110 west to Jericho Mountain State Park to open up the section to ATVs and to provide greater flexibility to potential developers.
Sununu said he approved expanding the subsidy for Burgess BioPower and the state is working with Gorham Paper and Tissue. But he said leadership is needed to allow small businesses to be successful. The governor cited Littleton as a model of a community that has leadership and an economic model that is developing a culture the town wants.
Sununu said one of Berlin’s problems is the large percentage of land that is off the tax rolls. When asked if he was referring to the White Mountain National Forest, he said that was part of it but there are also non-profits putting land in current use.
Sununu said he is optimistic about his re-election chances and said he is hoping to get a good Republican team in the Legislature that can help “really move the ball down the field.”
Deflex leases space in the former Car-Freshner plant now owned by Bob Chapman on Jericho Road. Currently there are five people employed in Berlin, but Deflex CEO Serge Jacques said he expects to hire two more in the next month. The company has approximately 50 people at its main Quebec plant, where it also manufactures water slides for attractions like Disney and Universal and does custom projects for customers.
Jacques said the “Buy American Act” was a factor in locating a satellite facility on this side of the border. The law requires companies under federal contracts to make their end product in the U.S. More than 50 percent of the cost of the parts must be made here.
Joining the tour was former executive councilor Joseph Kenney, who worked with state Business and Economic Industrial Agent Benoit Lamontagne to assist Deflex in opening the Berlin facility.