10.07.10

Leahy: 2 Cornerstones Of Southwestern Vermont's Economy Are Able To Stay Strong In A Difficult Economy With New Contracts And New Partners

BENNINGTON, Vt. (THURSDAY, Oct. 7) – During separate tours of Bennington’s Energizer and Vermont Composites factories Thursday, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy pointed to new research and development contracts at Energizer and new defense contracts at Vermont Composites as cornerstones of Southwestern Vermont’s economic future.  Leahy visited the two facilities to announce a $2 million contract at Energizer and to see the work Vermont Composites is doing on several military airframes. 

“Energizer and Vermont Composites are investing in new technologies that hold great potential to be at the heart of Southwestern Vermont’s economy for decades to come,” said Leahy, who, as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of it Defense Subcommittee, has championed investments in projects that both firms are working on.

During a morning meeting with Energizer employees, Leahy explained that he had secured a $2 million Department of Defense contract to help the firm develop a high power ultra-lightweight zinc-air battery for U.S. defense needs.  The Bennington factory has begun running test batches of the new battery, which operates at low temperatures and for extended periods of time.  Energizer’s Bennington facility produces more than one hundred million electronics batteries annually, primarily for wrist watches and hearing aids.  The new contract will help the firm develop the next generation of small-battery technology.

Leahy said, “My hope is that the research and development I am championing for Energizer translates not only to defense needs but also to commercial spinoff products that keep this plant competitive and on technology’s cutting edge, creating job opportunities for Vermonters for years to come.”


Ron Taylor, Energizer’s director of operations for lighting products, lithium and specialty power, said, “Senator Leahy has been an ardent supporter of Energizer for many years.  We are truly appreciative of his support. Through Senator Leahy’s leadership and advocacy, Energizer is the grateful recipient of research and development funding which will be used to develop leading edge battery technology for our Bennington Vermont plant.  This research contract will enable the construction of higher energy zinc-air batteries that will significantly increase our soldiers’ combat effectiveness by lightening the load they carry while simultaneously providing superior performance."

Across town at Vermont Composites, Leahy saw first-hand the work the company is doing with aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin.  During the tour, Leahy was briefed on work the company is doing on the V-22 Osprey, an advanced aircraft capable of operating as a helicopter and as an airplane; the MH-60R, the U.S. Navy's sub hunting Seahawk helicopter; and the P-8A Poseidon, a surveillance plane being developed for the U.S. Navy to replace the aging P-3 Orion fleet.  Leahy has been supportive of development of the aircraft in his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

Leahy said the work Vermont Composites is doing with strong lightweight composite materials is at the heart of a global effort to make aircraft, automobiles and nearly every type of heavy equipment more structurally strong and energy efficient.  During remarks made to Vermont Composites employees, Leahy also thanked the firm for working with the Bennington County Industrial Corporation and other area firms, including Plasan North America and Plasan Carbon Composites, to grow the composites sector in and around Bennington County. 

Vermont Composites President Patrick Wheeler said, “Our Company continues to see strong growth in its primary aerospace markets; including Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Rotorcraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.  We are very proud of the excellent engineering and production services we provide to all of our many aerospace and medical customers.  Vermont Composites is also appreciative of the continued support we have received from the State of Vermont over the years, including VEDA, VEPC, BCIC, VMEC and the Vermont Workforce Training Program. We are fortunate and pleased to be creating new jobs for Southern Vermont.”


In late September, Vermont Composites announced it was hiring between 30 and 45 new positions now that the firm’s aerospace business, including the V-22, MH-60R and P-8A Poseidon projects, is expanding. 


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