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U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., met Wednesday with Donald Tyler, managing director of Corfin Industries in Salem, where she reiterated her support for increasing the federal research and development tax credit from 14 percent to 17 percent. (COURTESY)

Salem firm struggling to find help

SALEM — With his Salem-based firm continuing to grow, Donald Tyler, managing director of Corfin Industries LLC, said it's been increasingly difficult to find qualified help these days.

The company, a leading manufacturer of component preparation services to a variety of industries, has more than 90 employees.

Tyler, who has been with Corfin for more than two decades, said increased demand for his products, particularly in the defense and aerospace sectors, means additional growth is anticipated in the not-so-distant future.

"We know there are further opportunities for us outside the United States," Tyler said. "And we've learned over the years that trying to sell ourselves over the phone or by emails isn't nearly as effective as meeting with potential clients face-to-face."

During a visit Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, Tyler shared his concerns for the future with the District 2 Democrat.

Kuster toured the Salem plant as part of her "Congress at Your Company" initiative, where she highlighted the importance of increasing the federal research and development tax credit from 14 percent to 17 percent while partnering with the state's community college system to train a highly skilled workforce of the future.

She said both provisions "are key components of her 'Make it In America' plan to create jobs, grow the economy and strengthen the middle class."

Located at 7-B Raymond Ave., the company offers component preparation services to the defense, medical, telecommunications and other industries.

In the 1980s, Corfin pioneered its signature Robotic Hot Solder Dip, and today the company serves various major firms around the world, including Boeing and BAE.

"Twenty years ago, we were concentrating mostly on telecommunications, but that's shifted more toward defense, followed by aerospace and medical," Tyler said.

The company participated in the 50th International Paris Air Show in June, and company officials plan to travel to Tokyo sometime this fall.

"Basically, we take other peoples' products and make them better," Tyler said. "A lot of our focus these days is making parts used to build missiles and put satellites into the air knowing they'll last for the next 30 years."

Ten percent of the company's revenues are from contracts outside the United States, company officials said.

Kuster, who has toured several dozen Granite State businesses in recent months, banded with eight other house Democrats earlier this month to announce several new bills, including her Workforce Development Act.

The bill aims to provide tax incentives to businesses that partner with community colleges and other education institutions to strengthen workforce development.

"The idea is to create jobs right here, instead of shipping the jobs away," Kuster said.

Tyler could relate.

"It is getting more and more difficult for us to find the right folks we need," he told the congresswoman. "Ideally, we like to find people with robotics experience as well as some electrical knowledge."

Kuster said one important component of her initiative would be to educate parents and families about potential opportunities in high-tech manufacturing.

"There once was a very big divide between liberal arts and technical education," she said. "But that day has passed, and what's changed is that manufacturing is no longer done on your grandfather's factory floor."

Encouraging more students to complete at least some of their education in a local community college is a win-win situation, she added, because not only are students connected with local companies like Corfin, but they also tend to leave college with lower student loan debt.

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