ANDOVER — As construction crews crawl over the newly risen steel skeleton of a curving, 77,000-square-foot building on Federal Street, business and community leaders in a neighboring town are scrambling to find tenants for a soon-to-be-empty, 19th-Century brick mill building.
By the end of this year, some 400 employees of Schneider Electric will be moving out of the 1860s-era structure they occupy at 1 High St. in North Andover into a gleaming, mostly new, state-of-the-art facility at 800 Federal St., located off River Road near the intersection of interstates 93 and 495.
The move is heralded by Schneider Electric and Andover officials as a big win for the company and the town, which offered property tax reductions as an incentive to lure them to the site.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Schneider Electric to Andover, and look forward to a long relationship with the company,” said Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski. “The new Schneider Electric R&D hub will bring people from around the world to Andover, and we’re pleased to welcome a company with longstanding roots in the Merrimack Valley to our community.”
But for North Andover, the loss of Schneider Electric is just more bad news.
“We are disappointed,” said North Andover Selectman Rosemary Smedile, noting that Schneider’s departure comes on top of an announcement made earlier this year that Converse and its 400 employees are leaving the same facility by 2015 and moving to Boston. “Both are excellent corporate citizens.”
Smedile said the move by Schneider rankles town officials not only because it leaves a hole in an important piece of real estate, but also because North Andover couldn’t offer the same kind of property tax break offered by Andover.
“You are only allowed to offer tax incentives on new construction and more job creation,” she said. “It makes it very difficult when you have to compete with the neighbor next door that can then offer an entirely new building. But is taking jobs from one community and putting them in another considered job creation? It is troubling that we were put at such a disadvantage.”