Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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May 16, 2013

A model of efficiency

New Schneider Electric building to boast 'leading-edge' products

When it’s finished, sometime later this year or in early 2014, Schneider Electric’s new research and development center at 800 Federal St. will be like a giant grocery store of energy-saving technology.

The interior of the 230,000-square-foot, $20 million building will be filled with products made by the global energy technology giant, some of which aren’t even sold on the open market yet, helping the building consume less electricity while showing potential customers how well the products work.

“It will be highly energy efficient,” said Matt Volpe, regional facility manager for Schneider, during a recent tour of the construction site. “This will be an R&D lab for us and a showcase for Schneider products.”

The construction of Schneider Electric’s new facility at the Andover location, off River Road near the Massachusetts School of Law, is the culmination of months of work, both internally — within the company — and externally — negotiating with local and state officials over tax breaks and other issues.

But in the end, the fight was worth it, said Barry Coflan, senior vice president of Buildings Business for Schneider Electric.

“This is a big company,” he said, noting that Schneider has 140,000 employees worldwide, including 850 whop will be ultimately be based in Andover. “They could have said, `We are moving you overseas.’”

Coflan’s team, now based in North Andover and with units in Billerica, Andover and Rhode Island, made a convincing argument to corporate colleagues in Paris, France, that the best place for one of Schneider’s five worldwide research and development centers is none other than Andover.

“It’s a big deal for us, to be one of the top five R&D locations in the world,” he said. “Other groups within Schneider competed for this. We had to submit a business case to the parent company in France.”

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