Canadian firm finds the perfect spot in Colebrook

There’s no one set of rules for bringing new companies to New Hampshire. No two businesses follow the same path to relocation. Often making a personal connection at the right time makes all the difference – and that was the case with Kheops International Inc., which recently brought a new distribution center and 20 new jobs to Colebrook.

In early April 2003, Beno Lamontagne, director of the Colebrook Development Corp., received a phone call from Odette Crawford, a Colebrook. Crawford informed him that a company from Canada was interested in touring and leasing space in the vacant Manchester Manufacturing building adjacent to the Colebrook Industrial Park.

Lamontagne immediately headed out to meet them. As he turned onto Route 3, Lamontagne noticed a green minivan with Canadian license plates stopped on the roadside with the driver studying a road map. With a friendly smile and fluent French, Lamontagne tapped on the window, and Kheops International was introduced to one of the many helping hands of Colebrook.

Kheops is a Canadian-based sales and distribution company of new age products that services more than 4,500 customers. With more than 2,500 products, Kheops’ trademark lines are glass pyramid boxes and candle and incense accessories. The firm also distributes handicrafts from India, aromatherapy products and a variety of accessories for body, mind and spirit.

The company decided to relocate from Florida to New England in order to be closer to key suppliers. Kheops had already toured land and buildings in Vermont and Maine, but had found prohibitive price barriers, including real estate and taxes. Upon the impromptu meeting with Lamontagne, Kheops decided to meet with Colebrook officials about possibilities in the town.

Having worked together on a number of previous projects, Lamontagne asked Michael Bergeron of the state Office of Business and Industrial Development to assist the Colebrook Development Corp. with the presentation to Kheops.

The April 28, 2003, meeting included Kheops President Marie-Josee Vaillant, the firm’s finance manager, Melanie Vaillant, and its production manager, David Belanger, Bergeron and Lamontagne, Jim Tibbetts, president and CEO of First Colebrook Bank, Larry Rappaport, chair of the Colebrook Board of Selectmen, Charlie Aubbee, board member of the Colebrook Development Corp., Paul Denton, president of the Northern Community Investment Corp., and Peter Riviere executive director of the Coos Economic Development Corp.

Based on information from Lamontagne’s initial contact with Kheops, OBID’s Bergeron made a presentation about New Hampshire’s benefits that specifically targeted Kheops’ needs. The presentation included outlines of New Hampshire’s low tax burden, skilled labor and easy access to state officials. Colebrook officials offered details on local government, permitting processes and available financial packages.

Only three weeks after the initial meeting, the financing was in place, and Kheops was ready to move to New Hampshire. , Kheops officials were convinced that Colebrook was the right place for the company, citing Colebrook’s strong community character, prompt follow-through, quick decision-making and warm welcome, Kheops officials felt very comfortable.

“The level of cooperation and professionalism that everyone in Colebrook showed made the two parties a perfect match,” said Bergeron.

At Bergeron’s request, New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner George Bald introduced himself to Kheops and offered his assistance as the project moved forward.

As with any relocation, a number of details still needed to be ironed out, and Bergeron and Lamontagne worked closely with Kheops to make the transition as smooth as possible. With a number of their products being imported, Bergeron referred Kheops to the state Office of International Commerce to provide the company with information about importing goods from China and India. Lamontagne also introduced Kheops to the director of U.S. Customs in nearby Norton, Vt.

‘Right at home’

Even though Kheops had begun its search by looking at existing buildings, it became clear that the company would need to invest a significant amount into tenant improvements and alterations so Colebrook’s available buildings would suit their needs. Thus Kheops decided to explore building a new facility, and Bergeron, Lamontagne and local real estate brokers worked with Kheops to find the right location.

Kheops selected a site just north of downtown Colebrook on Route 3. Bergeron worked with the Department of Environmental Services to facilitate subdivision and septic approvals. Lamontagne assisted Kheops with all aspects of local approvals, from negotiations with the planning board to selecting building contractors. By early June 2003, the financing was entirely in place and Kheops broke ground, and by late fall the 12,000-square-foot building was completed. Kheops began operation in Colebrook the first week of January.

Bergeron also assisted Kheops in obtaining free employee training assistance through the state Department of Labor. During the first week of January, Bergeron contacted Labor Commissioner Jim Casey, and by 8:30 the next morning Cindy Flynn, wage and hour administrator, had arranged to meet with Kheops at the Department of Labor’s Berlin office.

While at a meeting on Jan. 9, Kheops asked Bergeron for assistance in activating three additional telephone lines. Verizon had promised the lines would be installed by December 15, 2003, but Kheops was still waiting for the lines and losing customer calls. Commissioner Bald followed up the next day with a telephone call to Michael Hickey, president of Verizon in New Hampshire. By Jan. 13, the problem was resolved and the lines working.

“From the start, Kheops was impressed with the contacts we helped them make throughout the state,” said Lamontagne. “It wasn’t what they expected, and it made them feel right at home.”

Bald and Bergeron also helped Kheops in organizing a ribbon-cutting and open house on March 2. Bald ensured the invitation was translated into French.

“Commissioner Bald added a personal touch. At the ribbon cutting, he delivered his speech in French,” said Lamontagne. “Kheops was thrilled.”

During the open house, Bergeron introduced Marie-Josee Vaillant to John Simpson, the Office of Business and Industrial Development’s North Country representative, who will be available to assist Kheops in the future.

“This project is a great example of how local and state officials can work together to help provide new jobs to northern New Hampshire families,” said Bergeron. “The hard work of everyone in Colebrook is the reason that Kheops has come to New Hampshire.”

Kheops will be hosting an open house on April 3 at its new retail store, a mile north of Colebrook center on Route 3.

This article was provided by the state Office of Business and Industrial Development.

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