CMI Plastics is expanding by moving from New Jersey to the sunbelt, and all of the financial incentives that the state could provide couldn’t change that decision. “Construction costs, labor costs, ease of doing business — all signs pointed to Ayden, North Carolina, says Steven A. Hasselbach, president of the Cranbury firm founded by his grandfather It makes gift sets — plastic trays — for the cosmetics industry, among other products.

“For a small company to expand in New Jersey is very difficult, almost impossible,” says Hasselbach, who says his competition comes from overseas. “The cost of land alone, the cost of construction — we’re a small family business, and it is difficult to get funding.”

Arthur Hasselbach Sr. founded the firm in 1939 in his father’s Bronx print shop; he made model airplane kits out of balsa wood. He made these models for the military during World War II and purchased and merged six companies to found Consolidated Models.

Expanding to the plastics business, he built a thermoforming machine, and soon was doing plastic blister packaging. At one point CMI made pine wood derby models for the Boy Scouts of America, but its clients also included the Apollo space program (making battery housings for the lunar lander module), Johnson & Johnson (high tech medical packaging), and cosmetics firms like L’Oreal. Focusing on roll-fed thin gauge plastic thermoforming, cut sheet forming, injection molding, and contract packaging, it now has a tooling division.

Steve Hasselbach is the CEO and sole owner, and his wife works in the office. Their three sons grew up in the business. Steven J. Hasselbach, the president, attended Kutztown State and finished up at Thomas Edison State College. He and his wife have two preschool boys. Mark Hasselbach is controller and vice president, and his brother Jeff, works in tooling. Their mother works in the office. The only Hasselbach not in the business is their sister, who lives in California.

CMI has had 30,000 square feet in on Route 130 in Cranbury since 1960. Hasselbach started talking with Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina last fall: “I needed to exhaust every avenue.” he says. North Carolina and Pitt County gave CMI a bouquet of incentives, based on future growth. CMI bought 13 acres, broke ground in March on 70,000 square feet, and has space to expand up to 200,000 square feet.

About three-fourths of the current full-time employees (30 people) are expected to make the move by the end of this year. The town of Ayden has anteed up $2,500 per family to defray moving costs. A utility discount could amount to $60,000 over five years.

CMI promises to employ up to 165 people within three years. It says it will invest $10 million in the first year and expects to invest $23 million over a three year period. If it fulfills these promise, CMI will $300,000 from a state fund and $300,000 from a county fund.

In New Jersey, CMI pays an entry level temp person $10 or $11 an hour. In North Carolina, the average wage will be $11 an hour or $633 plus benefits — high for Pitt County, where the major industries are tobacco and textiles. The Pitt County average wage is $479, not including benefits.

Pitt County has additional attractions, including its proximity to water — the Pamlico River and the nearby ocean. Many of the employees, including the Hasselbachs, are boaters.

He cites the factors he was looking for: “support from the community, low overhead, high availability of employees and a wonderful environment to nurture and grow our business and our families. Also And it is an hour and 20 minutes from Raleigh, not a bad location to ship and receive.” And, says Hasselbach, “It seems as if they could never do enough for us down there.”

CMI Plastics, 2682 Route 130 North, Cranbury 08512; 609-395-1920; fax, 609-395-1921.

Georgia Bound

In July Wayne Wolf, chairman of Verificon Corporation, will leave Princeton University’s electrical engineering department, where he leads the embedded systems group, to occupy a named chair at Georgia Tech’s engineering school. Wolf is the founder of Verificon, an embedded vision systems firm, and it will move with him.

Verificon’s smart-camera systems “cooperate” in real time to analyze activities in a scene, such as movements of people, vehicles and other objects. Applications for these systems could include security, medicine, and smart rooms, which automatically track and adjust to the preferences of people in them. “The results of Dr. Wolf’s work have clear implications for how surveillance and homeland security applications are now developed and will be in the future,” says Gary May, chair of Georgia Tech’s school of electrical and computer engineering. “They are also of critical importance to the economic and overall security of Atlanta and the state as a whole.”

Embedded systems is the study of a wide variety of aspects of computers as part of larger systems. Wolf’s interests include VLSI design (Very Large Scale Integration, the process of creating integrated circuits by combining thousands of transistor-based circuits into a single chip), computer architecture, and multimedia.

Wolf went to Stanford for his undergraduate, master’s, and PhD degrees. He worked in Murray Hill for AT&T before coming to Princeton in 1989. He spun Verificon Corporation out of Princeton University in 2003 to commercialize its technology, and the firm is working on two product lines. With Yokogawa Electric of Japan, it is developing a security system for large areas like stadiums and airports. Another system analyzes the activity of customers in stores to help retailers better plan their merchandise displays. Wolf joins the “Eminent Scholars” program of the Georgia Research Alliance, a public-private partnership between Georgia universities, business, and state government that aims to attract scholars with a proven record of converting research into useful applications. “Dr. Wolf’s knowledge of video and computer technology and successful forays into commercialization can lead to products that will benefit many,” said GRA President C. Michael Cassidy in a release.

Verificon is not Wolf’s first experience with new companies. In 2001-’02, he was the chief technical officer for MediaWorks Technology, a start-up devoted to systems-on-chips for consumer multimedia devices. The company designed integrated circuits that dramatically improved the cost and performance of CD/MP3 players, digital cameras, cell phones, wireless set-top boxes, digital TVs, PDAs, and flat panel displays.

Wolf has given no recent interviews in Princeton, but in a statement release by Georgia Tech he says he is excited about the move. “It’s a world-class institution with lots of exciting people and projects and a great attraction to me. As for commercial opportunities, I expect this to be a great place to hire talented engineers and programmers to help us build our systems at Verificon. And because Atlanta is home to so many companies, we hope to find some important clients there as well.”

Verificon Corporation, 6 Colonial Lake Drive, Lawrenceville 08648; 609-273-1694. Wayne Wolf, chairman.

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