EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 12, 2013

Suntron sells plant to Va. company but jobs will stay in Methuen

Jobs will stay in Methuen

By Douglas Moser
dmoser@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — Electronics manufacturer Suntron Corp. announced Thursday it sold the last of its manufacturing capability to a Virginia-based electronics firm that focuses on a similar type of integrated systems to those built here.

That move follows the sale of an integrated systems service technology business unit last month, completing a complete pullout by the Phoenix-based Suntron about two years after opening the Methuen plant. Both buyers said Friday they plan to keep current employees on and hope to expand here.

Electronic Instrumentation and Technology purchased Suntron’s manufacturing facility at 300 Griffin Brook Drive to expand its capabilities into the aerospace industry and to develop a customer base in the Northeast, EIT said. The 45 to 50 employees in the manufacturing portion of Suntron’s unit are expected to stay on with EIT.

“They do have their own customer base up there we’re going to acquire, keep and hopefully grow,” said Jim Raymont, director of sales for EIT. “It’s the same type of customers we have, so we thought it would be a good fit.”

EIT is a contract manufacturing services company, engineering and building medium- and high-tech electronics and systems for medical, telecommunications, defense, and industrial customers. Raymont said orders and products are specialized, rather than mass produced.

The company signed a nine-month lease in the current building on Griffin Brook Drive, and will evaluate whether it should stay there or relocate. If the company moves, Raymont said it intends to stay in the area.

Additionally, the Griffin Brook Drive plant has an aerospace certification that is designated to a facility, as opposed to a company, that will allow EIT to expand its production capabilities.

“We will be able to utilize that, and we have some customers here that could use that facility in New England,” Raymont said.

The plant’s proximity to Boston also was a draw. EIT, which has a campus on the Virginia-North Carolina border near the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill technology and research hub, is eyeing “high tech opportunities in New England,” he said.

The details of the deal were not disclosed.

That announcement followed another sale by less than a month. Suntron said in December it sold its Embedded Computing Solutions business unit, which adds software and other systems to completed hardware for customers and also is located on Griffin Brook Drive, to Axiomtek USA, the American subsidiary of Taiwan-based Axiomtek.

According to a statement Axiomtek USA released on Dec. 22, it plans to keep operations in Methuen under the name Axiomtek Systems. It also was interested in the facility’s aerospace certification.

Dave Starrett, who is taking over as general manager of Axiomtek Systems, said the roughly 30 employees will stay on here, and the company is adding five more positions by moving people from within the company. He plans a few new hires as well, and said the company will expand as the customer base expands.

“For the time being we’re adding five immediately, but the game plan is we intend to grow it,” he said. “We have no restrictions as far as growing the business except for finding new customers.”

Many of Axiomtek’s customers are located in the Northeast, and the area has a good pool of potential employees, he said.

Axiomtek, founded in 1990 in Taipei, has 700 employees worldwide and creates components designed to withstand difficult environmental conditions.

Joseph Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped the new owners will keep operating in Methuen because of the type of skilled, high-tech manufacturing they do. “It provides great jobs and great services and products,” he said. “The chamber pledges its assistance to the new companies. Our goal is to keep as many jobs here in the Merrimack Valley as we can.”

Suntron works with technology companies in the defense, aerospace, medical, and industrial fields to mass-produce complex manufactured goods. Its customers include Intel, Philips, Varian Semiconductor, and WorldTech International. Its remaining manufacturing facilities are located in Phoenix and Tijuana, Mexico, according to the Suntron website.

It opened the Methuen plant in 2010 in a consolidation of its Lawrence and Manchester, N.H., locations. It considered moving all its production to New Hampshire, but settled on Methuen after lobbying by the chamber. The 2010 ribbon cutting ceremony included Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. At the time, Suntron moved 78 jobs to Methuen and had planned to add up to 60 more.

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