CARS HOMES JOBS

Starfire moving from Malta to Schenectady

Thursday, April 22, 2010
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— Specialty materials maker Starfire Systems is moving its corporate headquarters and laboratory facilities to Schenectady’s Tech Drive Business Park, officials announced Wednesday.

The move will transfer 15 jobs to the park, where Astria Solutions Group, Northeast Analytical, M&P Labs, Frank Murken Products and Fortitech also operate.

Starfire makes a variety of specialty materials, including ceramic compounds, coatings and parts that have uses in the aerospace and automotive industries.

The company will occupy 10,000 square feet at 2165 Technology Drive by the end of May, consolidating an office location at the Malta Commons Business Park and a laboratory and development location in the Luther Forest Tech Park.

Starfire will move its laboratory in phases. The office is expected to be ready in the first week of May.

Finding a new place to operate was not only an integral part of Starfire’s ability to emerge from bankruptcy, it was essential to the company’s growth strategy, according to President and CEO Andrew Skinner.

“We looked at a lot of places in the Capital District. We have been looking for real estate well over a year. Rents were quite reasonable everywhere. The reason we chose Schenectady is because the Metroplex Development Authority provided resources to help us navigate the process of getting a lease, getting the inspections and getting a permit,” Skinner said.

Ray Gillen, commissioner of Economic Development and Planning in Schenectady County and chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, said matchmaking efforts paid off.

“There were a lot of details to this and we were very persistent and positive in our approach,” he said, including giving a courtesy call to Saratoga County economic development officials. “We don’t recruit companies from neighboring counties,” he explained.

County officials recently renamed what had been the Riverside Technology Park in an effort to rebrand the space and aid marketing efforts, Gillen said. Signage will change sometime over the summer.

Starfire is operating with positive cash flows, according to Skinner. The company is shedding debt through a Chapter 11 restructuring and has downsized its work force from 40 in 2008 to 15 now.

Last month, Starfire reached terms with New York City-based Palladium Equity Partners for an investment. As part of its restructuring plan, Palladium becomes the majority owner of Starfire.

“We’re all excited about a fresh start. Going through bankruptcy has been difficult for the company. We’re really pulling ourselves by the bootstraps and executing a business plan that has great potential,” Skinner said.

Walter Sherwood founded Starfire in 1988 after acquiring patents from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The company was originally housed in RPI’s Center for Integrated Electronics on 25th Street in Watervliet, prior to moving to Malta in 2003.

Half of Starfire’s business is dedicated to the aerospace industry. The other half comes from product sales from its commercial and industrial applications.

Sales in 2009 were down due to a reduction in government contracts, Skinner said, but there are glimpses of the economic recovery as industry interest grows in Starfire’s technology and its flame-resistant and pre-ceramic applications. Revenue for 2010 is expected to be between $2 million and $5 million.

“Our materials are being more readily adopted. Perhaps that’s a sign that folks are being more aggressive in their new product development,” Skinner said.

 
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