Nashua manufacturer is first in New Hampshire to seek tariff exemption

Verico Technology says aluminum material it needs is not available from U.S. suppliers

Verico Technology, the new owner of Presstek Inc.’s former waterless printing division, appears to be the first New Hampshire company to ask to be exempted from steel and aluminum tariffs.

The company, based in Nashua, said that it uses litho-grade aluminum, an extremely pure form of the metal needed to make printing plates it manufactures in its facility in Enfield, Conn.

“I don’t feel we had any choice,” said Kevin Ray, the R&D director. “Aluminum is our key raw material.”

Without the exemption, Verico would pass that 10 percent cost onto the customers, but Ray is not sure they would be willing to swallow the cost. If they don’t, “I’m not sure what will happen. I’m not prepared to speak about that.”

Ray may have to find out, for even if the company’s June 20 exclusion request is granted, it won’t be for quite some time. The U.S. steel and aluminum producers that the tariffs are supposed to protect have 30 days to object to the exclusion, and then the U.S. Department of Commerce has another two months to make a decision.

But the department has been swamped with requests from manufacturers, who have complained of long delays. There have been at least 12,000 such exclusion requests made nationally in the last three months, though many companies have made requests for exemptions for multiple materials. Verico just asked for one. 

Before Verico, none of the requests came from New Hampshire businesses. Some fabricators have told NH Business Review that they would be hurt by the tariffs, especially the 25 percent tariff on steel, but said that they were either not as dependent on the product or they were too small to go through the exclusion process.

But Ray said that Verico has a good case, since Alcoa, the U.S. aluminum supplier, announced about a year ago that it would no longer provide litho-grade aluminum. And there would be a substantial lag “even if they switched back tomorrow,” Ray added.

Now the only possible suppliers to get the pure aluminum are in Great Britain and Germany, Ray said. The exclusion request is for German shipments.

The litho-grade material’s 99.5 percent aluminum content is important, Ray said, because too much steel or manganese can prevent a plate from bending properly on a printing press. The plates are sold to commercial and newspaper printers around the world who are willing to spend a little more because there is no liquid discharge to worry about.

Verico acquired Presstek’s waterless plates division at the end of March from American Industrial Partners following Mark Andy’s acquisitions of Presstek’s direct imagining offset plates and presses. Verico currently employs 50 people, with only a handful in the Nashua headquarters. The company also has offices in the United Kingdom and Germany.

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