Benefits help swing door firm’s decision to stay

Empire State Development chief Howard Zemsky.

Instead of relocating to Pennsylvania, a manufacturer with deep Long Island roots and a 110-strong payroll is staying put – and will even add 21 new jobs at its Port Washington operation.

Hollow-metal door manufacturer LIF Industries had considered leaving its current 163,000-square-fooot facility for new digs in the Keystone State, according to Empire State Development. LIF, dba Long Island Fireproof Door, traces its history to the Long Island Kalamein Door Co., a circa-1930s startup.

But before the Long Island original bolted west, Albany’s chief economic-development agency changed its mind with a thick slab of tax credits via the Excelsior Jobs Program, which offers tax breaks to firms promising job creation, job retention and capital investments.

To qualify for the Excelsior credits, companies in different industries must meet different criteria. Manufacturing companies, for instance, must promise to create at least 10 new full-time jobs.

LIF Industries has agreed to do that and more. With Empire State Development agreeing to provide up to $500,000 in Excelsior credits, the company will increase its full-time staff to 131 and maintain that minimum level for at least a decade.

The company will also purchase a 40,000-square-foot building across the street from its Port Washington HQ, increasing its physical footprint by nearly 25 percent, expanding its manufacturing capabilities and helping the company reach deeper into U.S. markets. LIF Industries will invest $11 million to acquire and retrofit the new space, according to ESD.

LIF Industries President Vincent Gallo bought Kalamein Doors in 1966 with his brother, Joseph, and renamed it Long Island Fireproof Doors. Two decades later, the brothers – originally carpenters by trade – launched a subsidiary, LIF Industries, specifically to manufacture hollow-metal doors.

Leaving Long Island would have been a tough decision, Vincent Gallo noted, but without Empire State Development’s help, difficult business realities would have made it inevitable.

“There is a lot of competition in the metropolitan New York area, so it is vital to the sustainability and growth of LIF that we constantly find ways to increase efficiency and capacity while effectively managing costs,” Gallo said.

“Our roots are here in New York,” he added. “So we are glad ESD approved our application.”