Construction of the cogeneration plant was completed in 18 months and will save the company almost $1 million annually in energy costs.
“Jobs like mine are rare in this day and age,” said Mr. Bond, who owns a home in the same neighborhood where Simonds is located. “This is good for the neighborhood, the community and all the way around.”
He hopes the move toward cleaner, cheaper energy by Simonds will also create more jobs for the company, and set the trend for other companies in the area.
“Most of our families have worked here for a long time — generations,” he said of the 179-year-old manufacturer of cutting tools. “Hopefully other companies will pick up on this to keep more jobs here.”
The $5.5 million cogeneration system uses a heat engine or power station to simultaneously generate both electricity and useful heat. It is one of the most common forms of energy recycling.
At Simonds, three generators producing 600,000 kilowatts each were constructed on 30,000 square feet inside the plant.
The natural gas-based cogeneration system will produce enough electricity to operate the plant, and produce heat as a bi-product from the conversion of natural gas to electricity. The company decommissioned the huge furnace that used to heat the building.
Simonds President Ray J. Martino said the company’s $2.2 million heat and electric bill will be cut annually by 40 percent.
Unitil will supply the natural gas to fuel the plant. The utility helped the company through the state permitting and contractual processes.
The company will also receive energy credits from the state that it can sell on the open market and local, state and federal tax incentives, including a 10 percent investment tax credit under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that will help reduce the cost of the project and help with job retention and expansion.
Anne Struthers, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, which collaborated with Simonds on the project, said the main ingredient of the company’s long-standing success is innovation — the factor that decides whether a business will flourish or not, she said.
“Looking beyond basic business principles, it is the thread of innovation woven deeply into the history of this company that makes the difference,” she said.
The move to cheaper energy was part of keeping the company financially viable in an area where energy costs are crippling for some companies, officials said.
Simonds also has plants in Michigan, Oregon, Kentucky, Alabama, Germany, Honduras and Brazil. Fitchburg’s electric rates are the highest, said Mr. Martino.
“North Central Massachusetts is the highest for energy rates,” he said. “There are several disadvantages to operating a business in Massachusetts, including energy costs, and also in the U.S. with the corporate income tax rates higher than in Germany and other states. We’re trying to overcome some of those cost obstacles.”
Fitchburg’s plant is the company’s biggest. Simonds employs more than 500 worldwide, with 25 percent of its workforce employed at the Fitchburg plant.
The company stays in Massachusetts, said Mr. Martino, because of the strong, skilled workforce.