LAWRENCE — A plan to move a high-tech company to Lawrence not only will breathe life back into the old Morehouse Bakery building, but also bring 25 to 50 new jobs to the city.
And officials at Performance Indicators, the Lowell company slated to move into the building at the corner of Mill and Methuen streets, said there is potential for dozens more new jobs in the future.
Performance Indicators created an advanced paint product that can be used in a variety of applications — from identifying friendly soldiers on a battlefield to lighting staircases in darkened subway tunnels and stadiums.
Sales were so good last year that the company needs larger accommodations, managing partner Robb Osinski said.
Late last week, Osinski and the building's owner, Architectural Heritage Foundation, announced the agreement. The foundation has owned the site since 2007, but the building has been vacant for more than a year after plans for Cambridge School of Culinary Arts to open a satellite campus there fell through.
Within a year, Performance Indicators should be able to move into the building, which most recently was used by a metal plating company.
Osinski said 2008 was his company's "breakout year."
"That's why we need to make this move," he said. "We need to house more employees and we need more space to expand into."
City officials have been working for months behind the scenes to bring the firm to Lawrence.
"This is a really good company for that area of the city," said Tom Schiavone, community development director. "It's a great fit for Lawrence with tremendous potential for job creation."
The foundation's project managers, Jeffrey Oakman and Sarah Hansen, said their Boston firm will act as developers of the $11 million rehabilitation of the old bakery building, which will eventually be sold to Performance Indicators.
The foundation also developed the Washington Mills apartment complex, a 155-unit, high-end rental apartment building on Canal Street.
"This is a good fit for what they need," Oakman said. "And they can use the whole building."
He said about half the 36,000-square-foot space will be offices and the other half will be research and development space.
Performance Indicators started out making an invisible coating for golf balls that changed color when the ball was old and waterlogged. But the golf ball manufacturing industry failed to embrace the technology, so Osinski and his partner, North Andover resident Bob Winskowicz, branched out into other areas, Osinski said.
Last year, they signed a contract with the Chicago Transit Authority to outfit all of the authority's emergency evacuation stairways with their paint product. Frequent power outages in the subway system had put the Chicago Transit Authority under investigation for unsafe evacuation routes — in particular poorly lit stairways in disrepair.
By covering the stairs and handrails on evacuation routes with the glow-in-the-dark paint made by Performance Indicators, people can see where they are going.
Osinski said the same technology was used at U.S. Cellular Field, also in Chicago. People had been tumbling down steep, dark, upper-deck steps and filing costly lawsuits against the White Sox ball club, so the owners turned to Performance Indicators to highlight the edges of the steps with the product.
It worked so well, he said, that during last year's playoffs, he and his partner could see the glowing stairs on TV in shots taken from a blimp flying over the ball field.
One of their biggest customers right now is the U.S. military. Soldiers' uniforms and equipment can be marked with an invisible form of the paint that is only seen by using infrared technology.
"This has enormous applications for the U.S. military in saving soldiers' lives," he said.
Osinski said initially the company would bring its 25 employees to the site, but that the employee base would grow to about 50 within a year.
The idea then is to start creating spinoff companies with other applications for the product and create separate businesses around them.
Those spinoff companies could easily locate in Lawrence, Schiavone said, noting that the city has plenty of low-cost, underutilized industrial and commercial space.
Hansen said that while the two parties have signed a letter of intent to go forward with the deal, it won't be finalized until the spring, with construction to start in the summer.
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