LONDONDERRY — Gov. Maggie Hassan came to Londonderry yesterday to learn more about jobs, how the state can help create and keep them.
But in meeting with executives of Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England and touring a production center off Interstate 93, Hassan also received lessons in how connected are employers in the region and the region’s economy.
“I learned about, one, what a terrific employer Coca-Cola of Northern New England is. Also, how many jobs there are as we innovate, for instance, in the area of recycling and how much that can boost capacity, save money and go into developing great jobs,” Hassan said at the conclusion of the tour.
Hassan acknowledged the tour gave her a message to bring back to state leaders in Concord.
“The need to innovate always, and the need to develop a 21st century work force that has the kind of skill set that companies like CCNNE need,” Hassan said.
Executives briefed the governor on the company’s New England presence, with more than 1,000 employees from Maine to Cape Cod, better than half of them in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire payroll alone tops $30 million.
The 25-year-old Londonderry plant takes up 500,000 square feet near Interstate 93 Exit 5, with four production lines and operations seven days a week. Products ranging from Coke to Snapple and Moxie are distributed by the company.
The company’s director of capabilities, Mike Elmer, told Hassan its 18,000 customers range from Market Basket to neighborhood pizzerias.
General Manager Rick Neal said the average plant pay is $54,000 a year. “So they’re good jobs,” Neal said.
Employees often stay with the company for 20 or 30 years, he said.
Hassan told executives after the tour that she always encourages students to consider the good jobs in manufacturing.
She asked Neal if the company is getting the skilled workers needed in New Hampshire.
“So far, so good,” Neal said.
What caught the governor’s interest was the company’s presentation on its recycling system and how that affects other companies.
Company officials told Hassan how recycled Coca-Cola products make their way into goods made by Hampton-based Foss Manufacturing, a textile company, and at Polartec, the fleece maker in Lawrence.
“People are shocked this turns into that,” Ray Dube, the company’s sustainability manager, told Hassan.
Coca-Cola also works with a Portsmouth-based recycling company, Poly Recovery. Dube said the company has grown from four to 40 employees since the two companies started working together.
Executives stressed that recycling isn’t just the right thing, but what customers want.
Dube, in a brief interview during the tour, said people don’t see the economic connections through recycling that link employers such as Coca-Cola and Polartec.
“There’s a huge work force built on this,” Dube said.
The company’s executives asked for the governor’s support in efforts to encourage consumer recycling.
She was willing.
“This is something I will take back to the team,” Hassan said.
When officials told the governor about how they look for energy savings in production, Hassan also took note.
She said that’s something she hopes to address with governors in neighboring states.
“How do we get more gas capacity up here,” she said.
Hassan’s interest in energy options for companies pleased Elmer.
“As you see, it takes a lot of energy to run this place. We try to be incrementally more efficient every single year,” he said.
“But anything the state can look at that would give us step changes is interesting to us, anything we can do in terms of new fuel sources,” Elmer said.
“Compressed natural gas is interesting for us in the long term. So hopefully that is something we might be able to take advantage of with all the vehicles we have,” he said.
Elmer acknowledged meeting with the governor was helpful.
“We’re just happy to let her know, and anyone else know, we’re a local company,” Elmer said. “Because we’re a good employer and we do things the right way.”
The governor seemed to appreciate what the company is doing for sustainability and supporting energy efficiency, he said.
“It’s part of being a good community partner but it’s also good business,” Elmer said. “When we can use less of a resource, that saves us expenses and allows us to continue to be a good employer for the long term.”
Hassan, in meeting with the executives, thanked the company for its $250,000 in charitable gifts to community groups.
The tour came during a month in which Hassan, delivering her state of the state speech, called for a stronger workforce to fill good jobs.
She said in her speech she plans to focus on improving science, technology, math and engineering education, as well as strengthening the workforce pipeline between schools and manufacturing.