Faria Beede finds room for growth
in new North Stonington location

Faria Beede finds room for growth
in new North Stonington location

The Westerly Sun


NORTH STONINGTON — Standing in a cavernous warehouse near I-95 Tuesday, Fred Merritt was pleased to have found a home for Faria Beede, a gauge and marine technology manufacturer that he purchased in September.

For more than 50 years, the company has operated out of the Pink Row complex in Montville, a cluster of mill buildings more than 100 years old.

“Right now we have a six-story warehouse, roughly 82,000 square feet, with a freight elevator that is the second oldest elevator in the state of Connecticut,” he said. “This new space gives us single-level assembly manufacturing, which will give us an advantage in material handling and processing.”

Employing about 200 workers, the company produces instrumentation for vehicles and boats, and remote monitoring technology that can record equipment data and control equipment functions in commercial and military vehicles.

The Montville space had become inefficient and unwieldy because workers had to transfer equipment and materials from floor to floor. Antiquated equipment, unused for years, was also taking up valuable space on the plant floor, Merritt said.

Located at 75 Frontage Road, the new space is smaller, but offers vast vertical space that can be used for storage, he said. “You take a combination of the high ceilings and remove all the obsolete materials and equipment and that’s one of the reasons we’re able to go from 82,000 square feet down to 50,000 square feet,” he said.

Merritt, 49, of Fort Wayne, Ind., said he became interested in purchasing Faria Beede because one of his other companies, Riverside Manufacturing, meshed well with Faria’s line of products.

The Fort Wayne company, established in 1947, makes electronics used on military and emergency vehicles as well as portable power and construction equipment. The company began as a tool and die operation that supplied the auto industry, and eventually specialized in electronics. Merritt, who earned a B.S. degree in finance from Indiana University in 1989, became familiar with the company during his 10-year stint in banking after college. After starting his own investment firm in 1999 and working with Riverside’s owner for an extended period, Merritt bought the company in 2002.

With overlapping niches in the industry, Riverside and Faria Beede had built a strong business connection over the years, he said. “We were a customer and they also used to buy some product from us, so we had interchange back and forth.”

“There are so many nice synergies between Faria and Riverside,” Merritt said. “Right now our engineers are collaborating with each other on projects — there’s a lot of expertise here that they didn’t have in Indiana and vice versa.”

Vertical integration

Merritt said Faria is unusual because it’s highly integrated vertically, meaning that it combines multiple stages of production normally operated by separate companies.

“We mold many of our own plastic parts, we stamp a lot of our own little pieces out, we make our circuit boards, we print our own dial faces, and then you take all of these pieces and when you’re finished you have a gauge,” he said. “We do buy some pieces outside, but we make the vast majority ourselves internally because it gives us quality control over the process.”

The company’s customers include boat manufacturers throughout the United States and overseas. Most are located from in an area from Michigan to Tennessee to Missouri, but Merritt said the idea of having a New England footprint presented an attractive opportunity for providing service to East Coast clients.

In a tour of the building, which is owned and leased by Quinlan Enterprise of Stonington, Merritt pointed out areas that will be used for light assembly, material handling, production control, purchasing activities, customer service, and engineering.

“This room will have a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment to build circuit boards and we’ll use it as a testing facility,” he said, gesturing to a raw space with heavily-wrapped ductwork hanging from the ceiling.

“We have another 4,000 square feet back here for molding and metal stamping,” he said, walking toward the back of another large open area. “And over here, this will be one big break room and some lockers.”

Site’s advantages

The North Stonington location was a plus for Faria’s workforce. “The nice thing is that geographically this location works for the vast majority of our team of employees,” Merrit said. “We have a lot of people who live in New London and the driving distance is basically the same, and for our people in Rhode Island this is closer than Montville for them.”

The next closest possibility was in Norwich, which was farther than Merritt said he wanted the employees to travel.

The property also accommodates parking for 225 cars, which is “nearly impossible to find in this region,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to find this location.”

Compared to the mill location, the new building will also have better energy efficiency, with LED lighting systems and insulated heating and cooling systems.

Merritt has signed a five-year lease with an option to extend to 17 years.

“We will start moving at the end of the May,” he said. “Our objective is to be fully out and in here by September 30.”

Though the details of the build-out and moving are important, Merritt said he remains focused on the long-term success of his companies.

“I didn’t buy this business to sell it in three years, I bought it to help bring the brand back to prominence,” he said. “That’s always the goal: Growth.”

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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