Former Clinton County Airport

The former Clinton County Airport could be the site of Norsk Titanium, a SUNY Polytechnic research and development facility in Plattsburgh. There is $125 million in the newly passed state budget for the project.

PLATTSBURGH — The New York state 2016-17 budget includes $125 million for a SUNY Polytechnic research and development facility in Plattsburgh to house Norsk Titanium, which will create aerospace components via 3D printing.

The company has been described as "transformational" for the area, as it will bring an aerospace component into the region's growing transportation-equipment manufacturing cluster.

Norsk expects to offer about 400 jobs upon full operation.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the budget contains several pieces of good news in the budget for the North Country.

"(But) foremost among these is the $125 million for SUNY Polytechnic for the Norsk Titanium project in Plattsburgh, a huge economic-development advance we have worked with the state and the company toward achieving for two years," he said Friday in a statement.

"It's now full speed ahead, with hopefully an official announcement soon that will allow us to reveal the exciting details of a project that will put our area at the forefront of 21st-century technology and add aerospace manufacturing to our growing transportation equipment cluster."

BUILDS LAYERS

The Norwegian company plans to open its first North American location for 3D printing of titanium aerospace components in the Plattsburgh area, possibly on the former Clinton County Airport property.

The 200,000-square-foot facility will be a public/private partnership between SUNY Polytechnic and Norsk Titanium.

SUNY Polytechnic published a request for proposals in November 2015 through its development arm, Fort Schuyler Management Corp., that specified establishment of state-of-the-art facilities for strategic research, technology outreach, business development, manufacturing and education and workforce training with a qualified local developer or construction contractor in the Greater Plattsburgh area.

Norsk Titanium's proprietary plasma arc, Rapid Plasma Deposition technology, melts titanium wire in a cloud of argon gas and then precisely and rapidly builds layers to up to an 80 percent complete shape, which requires very little finish machining.

The company says its production costs are 50 to 75 percent less than traditional forging and billet manufacturing techniques due to significantly less waste and machining energy.

AFFIRMS COLLABORATION

State Sen. Betty Little welcomed the state's large investment in the North Country.

"We're excited to have an international company coming to Plattsburgh to do their manufacturing," she said.

The funding demonstrates the state's recognition of the strength of the region's emerging transportation-equipment manufacturing cluster and its North American Center of Excellence for Transportation Equipment, Little said.

She said it also affirms the value of the collaborative approach taken by the region's economic-development professionals and workforce-development specialists.

The new research and development facility will fit in nicely with the Advance Manufacturing Institute, expected to break ground soon at Clinton Community College, as well as Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute, Little said.

City of Plattsburgh Mayor James Calnon said the addition of aerospace makes the transportation-equipment cluster even more robust and fits in well with recent agreements with the transportation equipment cluster in Quebec, such as the collaboration signed last year between Calnon and the mayor of Longueuil.

"It's a perfect fit," he said Friday. "I think it will herald additional aerospace opportunities."

The region should also get a boost from the construction jobs required to create the R&D center, Calnon said.

GAME CHANGER

State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said she was pleased the governor and state legislators recognized the importance of this $125 million investment in the Norsk Titanium plant.

"I extend special thanks to Senator Little for her leadership in securing this funding," she said.

"I look forward to welcoming Norsk officials and the hundreds of job opportunities to Plattsburgh."

Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman welcomed the word that the budget provides significant funding for the emerging Norsk Titanium project in the Town of Plattsburgh.

"Projected to bring up to 400 new, good-paying jobs, Norsk Titanium adds to the long history of manufacturing in our area and will be a game changer in our economy," he said.

"We are living in exciting time — greater Plattsburgh is on the move."

EXPERIENCED EXECUTIVES

Norsk Titanium has spent the last few years assembling its team and securing strategic partnerships in anticipation of its move into North America.

Last October, it brought aboard Pittsburgh-based RTI Metals, a supplier of titanium and other specialty metal products, as a strategic investor and partner.

The company has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Alcoa to explore cooperation to leverage each firm's manufacturing expertise and commercial capabilities to meet what Norsk described as the fast-growing needs of aerospace, defense, energy, automotive and maritime customers.

Norsk has also been busy putting together a team of executives with broad experience in the aviation and defense industries.

Among them is Norsk Titanium President and Chief Executive Officer Warren M. Boley Jr., whose resume includes stints as president of Aerojet Rocketdyne and executive roles at Pratt and Whitney.

FAST-TRACK PROGRAM

Last December, Norsk achieved Technology Readiness Level Eight through a Federal Aviation Administration-recommended test plan conducted by Westmoreland Mechanical Testing & Research Inc.

That demonstrated the company's Rapid Plasma Deposition titanium parts "meet demanding aerospace requirements and could now be supplied," the firm said, "to the world’s premier aerospace and defense manufacturers for final certification and airframe integration."

In January, Norsk announced that its first shipment of test parts for Airbus was finish machined by Premium AEROTEC "with excellent results."

“This fast-track qualification program is a great example of the value proposition Rapid Plasma Deposition brings to our commercial aerospace partners,” Norsk Titanium Chief Commercial Officer Chet Fuller said then.

“We turned Aerotec's 3D CATIA files into flyable titanium parts in a matter of weeks under a cost-reduction effort that could ultimately save Airbus $2 million to $3 million per aircraft.”

Email Dan Heath:

dheath@pressrepublican.com