Chris Kapiloff, vice-president of LTI Smart Glass, needed to rapidly expand the limited Pittsfield manufacturing capabilities to meet the demand for their newest product line. He was afraid that the permitting process alone would take six to nine months. However, when the City of Pittsfield rolled out the Red Carpet Team, which encourages economic development in the City, he said that entire process took just 60 days.
“I can’t think of another city that I’ve ever worked with – and we’ve worked with a hundred plus cities on construction projects – that would have ever dreamed of mobilizing city officials for a private company in such a short period of time,” Chris said. “I’ve never been part of a construction project that’s been expedited like that.”
LTI’s newest product, School Guard Glass, designed specifically in response to the Sandy Hook School tragedy in Connecticut, was getting national attention. It could delay armed aggressors who might attack a school long enough for first responders to arrive on the scene.
“School Guard Glass was selected for the security glass in the new Sandy Hook Elementary School, the new Columbine High School and the new Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Chris said. “We have hundreds and hundreds of schools every year that come to us wanting what Sandy Hook has and what Columbine has.”
This rapidly expanding new line of business challenged the company’s limited manufacturing space. It was already near capacity making quality custom glass products. LTI protective glass is installed in police cruisers, military vehicles, aerospace, the Pentagon and FBI headquarters. It also provides custom glass for privacy, such as tinted glass that can be made lighter and darker for hospitals and conference rooms, and custom glass for decorative use, such as the glass panels installed at the Freedom Tower in New York City.
To take advantage of the new business opportunity in the educational market without disrupting the existing business, LTI needed to expand the manufacturing facility quickly.
“We wanted to put on an addition of almost 20,000 square feet and purchase about $2.5 to $3 million worth of equipment,” Chris said.
The City of Pittsfield responded to the urgent business need by assembling the Red Carpet Team, which incorporates economic development officials, inspectors from various departments and workforce development experts. It also develops economic incentive packages using local, regional and state resources.
“The idea of Pittsfield’s Red Carpet Team is to get everybody in the same room to walk through issues, solve them and immediately move on,” Chris said. “The team came here to LTI. It included the electrical inspector, the fire inspector, the building inspector and other parties. We sat down with our general contractor and the engineer on the job. We went through the plans. The City organizations had their chance to give their objections verbally while all the different parties were in the room.”
“We worked through what I would have expected to take six months in literally an hour and a half,” Chris added.
The company committed to create 38 new jobs. The Department of Community Development built an incentive package of $580,000 over multiple years. The company could receive an incremental sum if it creates 50 additional jobs by the end of 2022.
Part of the reason that the parent company, AITG wanted to expand in Pittsfield, rather than relocate in another state, is because he says that his Pittsfield employees outperform those of his competitors located elsewhere.
“Here’s my proof that that is true. My biggest competitors are in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Iowa. All of them use the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. Our minimum wage is higher. So, we wake up every day and have to do twice as much as those other companies just to break even,” he said. “We are doing it. We are taking customers away from all of our competitors right now. And, we are doing it primarily because our workforce is better. We are literally squeezing the life out of some of these other companies.”
He attributes the workforce quality to the education system in Berkshire County and to his employees’ work ethic.
“What I found here is that there are a lot of people who are really good with their hands and are really hard workers. They are smart when it comes to figuring out hands-on problems. They may have been C or C+ students in school, but they are really smart for the kinds of things that we do,” he said.
Chris says that LTI’s growth has been a success for the City and the company.
“I would say that we were all successful. LTI was successful in getting several hundred thousand dollars from the City. And, we met our hiring promise. LTI has actually exceeded both our promise to spend in terms of capital and also our promise to hire in terms of number of employees,” Chris said.
“If you want good talent and a great place to be, Pittsfield is it. A majority of our employees are parents. The quality of the schools and the amount of outdoor activity here are great,” Chris said. “If you love the outdoors and if you have kids, I honestly can’t think of a better place in the country to be located than Berkshire County.”
– by Roger Matus