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High-tech manufacturer to move to Hagerstown

August 03, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

A Damascus, Md., neurological research equipment manufacturer will move its operation and nine employees to Hagerstown this year, the company's president said Tuesday.

Crist Instrument Co. is buying the United Refrigeration building at Maryland Avenue and West First Street for $165,000, Joan Crist said.

The building will need a "fair amount" of work, including an electrical upgrade and remodeling of restrooms, before the company makes the move, she said.

Crist said she hopes it doesn't take longer than two months for the move to be completed.

The 10-year-old company is so cramped in its current space that it doesn't have room to move in all the equipment it owns.

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"If we don't move, it's going to kill sales and everything else," Crist said.

Crist Instrument designs and makes equipment to fit researchers' specific needs, she said.

Good customers in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area include the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health, Crist said.

The company has a special relationship with the National Institutes of Health whereby lab researchers there will check new products and make suggestions for improvements, she said.

Crist Instrument has nine employees, including Crist and her husband, Chuck Crist, who is vice president and chief engineer, and two workers who live in Washington County.

The company plans to hire more people "ultimately," Joan Crist said. She doesn't know when that might be, she said.

She wouldn't say what the employees' salary range is except to say it's "modest" because of the company's small size.

The company's search for a new home took about two years, Crist said.

Because of the concentrations of customers, the company considered moving to the Boston area and California before settling on Hagerstown, she said.

Moving to Hagerstown, the company could maintain accessibility to customers in the Baltimore-Washington area and keep its current employees, Crist said.

Due to the technical nature of the company's products, even skilled machine operators require a year or more of specialized training to get up to full speed, she said.

Crist said the area's quality of life, including friendly people, festivals and other cultural attributes, was a factor.

They plan to move here from Damascus after the company's move is complete, she said.

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