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March 27. 2013 1:36PM

Salem company misses hiring goals, has to repay federal funds

SALEM - Funds from a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awarded to a Salem company in 2006 will need to be repaid in full after the company failed to create the 25 additional jobs it promised.

During a public hearing on the project's status at Monday night's selectmen's meeting, officials from Bio-Concept Laboratories said a portion of the loan had already been repaid, though they do still intend to expand job offerings in the near future. The company, which is located at 13 Industrial Way, specializes in formulation development, aseptic clinical manufacturing and microbiology, according to its website.

CDBG consultant Donna Lane said a public hearing is a required component in the grant process, where community members can be informed of project progress.

"Things didn't go exactly as we'd planned and there is currently a repayment going on," Lane said of the Bio-Concept grant.

Company president and CEO Francis Smith said the company had endured an economic hit after receiving the grant, but has since recovered.

"We're doing fine now," Smith said. "And we do expect to hit the employment level we've promised. It won't happen this year, but it will happen."

Laurel Bistany, executive director of the Regional Economic Development Center of Southern New Hampshire, said she prefers to focus on the positive. "From our perspective, this is tough because they didn't create the jobs and we had to pay the money in the program back," Bistany said. "But the good news is we're still retaining jobs. From my perspective, this still remains a win. This company is in business and is keeping people employed."

Town Manager Keith Hickey stressed the town would not be responsible for repaying the grant funds, as that responsibility falls on REDC.

Glenn Coppelman of the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority reiterated Hickey's point. "If there are any fears on the part of the selectmen, that isn't the case," Coppelman said.

He added that the program typically "offers funding of a last resort and to make a deal happen."

"We have a lot more successes than not. In some cases, though, there are job-creation goals not immediately met," Coppelman said. "Ultimately this objective will be met, but unfortunately not in time."

According to Smith, the company currently has somewhere around 29 employees, with plans to add more over the next few years.

AGuilmet@newstote.com