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Suffolk woos hearing aid firm with tax deal

Widex, a Danish hearing aid company, is looking

Widex, a Danish hearing aid company, is looking to purchase this office building on Commerce Drive in Hauppauge to house its U.S. headquarters. (Nov. 18, 2011) Credit: John Dunn

A Danish manufacturer of hearing aids is looking to move to Suffolk County, New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

Anticipating more sales in the United States, Widex wants to combine its operations in a single complex. The company, with 200 employees, now has two offices in Garden City Park and two plants in Long Island City.

Suffolk's industrial development agency this week offered Widex about $1.6 million in tax breaks to move into a facility at 185 Commerce Dr. in Hauppauge. Company executives said they would weigh the offer against those from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Bill Funicello, vice president of U.S. operations for Widex, said a decision must be made by Dec. 31 because the move needs to be completed by this time next year.

"We have a small piece of the hearing-aid industry right now, but our objective is to grow," Funicello told IDA directors. "We've been looking at sites for at least 13 months."

Widex makes hearing aids for adults and children under brand names such as Clear, Mind, Passion and Baby440. They are sold through audiologists and licensed dealers.

Funicello said the private company hopes to remain in the metropolitan area because its workers primarily live in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx. A loss of employees because of the planned relocation would disrupt production for six months, he said.

"If we came out here," Funicello said, "we'd probably offer a ride-share program for employees."

Suffolk officials agreed to freeze property taxes for five years and limit any increases for 10 years after that, which would save Widex about $1.4 million over 15 years. An additional $200,000 in savings would come from a sales tax exemption on equipment purchases.

"This really is a home run," said IDA chairman Jim Morgo, noting the Widex project involves a headquarters and factory, both with good-paying jobs. The company hopes to add about 50 people to its payroll over the next five years.

Morgo also said Widex plans to open a training center for hearing aid dealers that would bring visitors who would use 1,000 hotel rooms each year.

In addition to neighboring states, Widex executives haven't completely ruled out staying in Nassau. Their relocation representative, Tom Stringer, told Newsday a building at Mitchel Field was again under consideration because of a recent drop in its sale price.


WIDEX AT A GLANCE

Business type: hearing-aid manufacturer

Operations: Two offices in Garden City Park; two factories in Long Island City

Employees: 260 (200 in New York)

Ownership: Topholm and Wastermann families of Denmark

History: U.S. operation dates to 1956

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