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General Dynamics Celebrates New Plastics Avenue Expansion

A man stands a podium in an atrium with a brick column and a vase with flowers in front of a blue ribbon
Josh Landes
Carlo Zaffanella spoke at General Dynamic's ribbon cutting on March 5th, 2020

Defense contractor General Dynamics held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday morning for its expansion into a new building in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The ceremony included local dignitaries and General Dynamics employees in the spacious atrium of 1 Plastics Avenue. The building was last owned by the Saudi manufacturing company SABIC on the former General Electric campus northeast of downtown Pittsfield. The news of the expansion follows similar growth in the building complex for the business back in 2017, when it last held a ribbon cutting.

Stan Kordana – vice president of the surface ship programs business area for General Dynamics Mission Systems – introduced Carlo Zaffanella, the vice president and general manager of Maritime and Strategic Systems.

“Carlo leads a diverse array of programs serving the U.S. Navy, U.S. Airforce, and a variety of commercial customers," said Kordana. "This business performs electronic system integration for submarines, surface ships, and unmanned underwater vehicles as well as the design, build, and support for subsurface, surface, air, and strategic subsystems.”

He said Zaffanella’s business employs around 3,500 around the country, with four facilities in Massachusetts including Pittsfield, as well as sites in Minnesota, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Arizona, and California.

Zaffanella said the company experienced an employment low of around 450 in the late 90’s, and has enjoyed steady growth since then.

“Employed today in total in Pittsfield, we have over 1,600 people," said Zaffanella. "We will have another 80 or so interns here that start in the spring – typically we peak, like many companies, our internship is in the summer. The government employs another 100, 120 fulltime between Navy uniformed and civilian and the material management agency, making a total of 1,800 folks.”

He said that translates into a net payroll of over $150 million a year in the city from General Dynamics.

“I [have] pretty good fidelity on the next 24 months and a decent handle on where I think we’ll be in the next five years," Zaffanella said. "It’s not a crystal ball. I would say that we are positioned to continue the path that we are on. It is more probable than not that we will continue to grow. Last year, we added a net of 200 employees.”

Zaffanella said he expected to add another hundred net employees in 2020, and “something similar” next year – saying much of the growth represented highly trained engineers.

“We also have about 250 people in manufacturing, including some terrific unions with whom we have fabulous relationships," he told the crowd. "And that’s where we’re going to start to see more growth at the end of this year and into next year. I’m really happy about that, because too much have we lost in this community with regard to manufacturing, and so it’s great to be able to see some of that growth hopefully continue to be upon us in years to come.”

The new space for General Dynamics will allow for engineering teams to work in what Zaffanella described as “agile development,” where small groups each address piecemeal elements of larger projects in an open space. He alluded to even more possible growth on 1 Plastics Avenue in the years to come.

“There are two more pods that haven’t invaded yet down the way, and it’s not lost on us, it’s not lost on our employees, it’s not lost on anybody,” said Zaffanella.

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer cheered the new expansion.

“General Dynamics is an anchor institution in our city," she said. "Whether you’re an employee who’s been here for 50 years or 40 years or 40 minutes the city of Pittsfield is proud that you make our city your home.”

She praised the work of the Fortune 500 company that reported over $36 billion in revenue in 2018 and is ranked as the fifth largest defense contractor in America and the sixth overall in the world.

“Because what you do here every day protects our country," said Tyer. "You are doing a thing that special, and honorable, and admirable.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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