Dave Ventola, engineering manager for Optometrics, by the company's new dicing saws purchased with a loan from the town.

By Amelia Pak-Harvey

AYER -- An optics manufacturer has received a half-million dollars in loans to help purchase high-tech equipment for its Ayer manufacturing plant.

Optometrics received a $300,000 loan from MassDevelopment and $200,000 from Ayer's Industrial Development Finance Authority. The company, which has a manufacturing office in Ayer and a administration office in Littleton, makes optical components for use in scientific fields.

The IDFA loan has already allowed Optometrics to buy a $38,000 infrared spectrophotometer that measures light, said Laura Lunardo, the company's chief operating officer.

The loan also purchased two dicing saws for cutting glass at $70,000 each, she said.

The MassDevelopment loan, she said, will help the company purchase two microscopes used on the production line that could range upwards of $150,000.

"These are not cheap pieces of equipment," she said, adding that the loan has been a significant help.

Headquartered in Watertown, the company employs about 40 people in Ayer and 12 in Littleton, she said.

Ayer's IDFA money comes from the town's Urban Development Action Grant account, said Economic Development Director David Maher.


"This money is loaned out at reasonable modest rates, and then the money gets recycled by the principal and the interest being fed back into that specific account," he said.

The new restaurant New England Flatbread Company to open on Main Street is also working with Maher's office to receive a loan from the IDFA account, Maher said.

The account has over $1 million right now, he said, and the Optometrics loan will be paid back at about a five percent interest over a 15-year period.

Maher said it's a great thing for Ayer to have Optometrics, arguing that it's one of the town's top employers.

"It's a high-tech company -- all of the employees have to be trained and they have understanding of high-tech equipment," he said. "This equipment is probably, right now, the most cutting-edge in the world for the kind of work that they're doing over there."

Not to mention, he added, the taxes and jobs that Optometrics provides.

Optometrics paid $18,429 in real estate taxes in fiscal 2014, according to figures from the town clerk's office.

The MassDevelopment loan will also help Optometrics with other product lines and services, according to a press release.

"We're pleased to provide this loan to help Optometrics expand and partner with manufacturers around the country, creating and retaining highly-skilled manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts," MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones said in a statement.

MassDevelopment spokesman Kelsey Abbruzzese said MassDevelopment considers the financial feasibility and public purpose of a project when distributing loans.

"With Optometrics, it's supporting the manufacturing business in the state and they're creating jobs," she said. "Manufacturing has been a big part of our mission the last couple of years, given its importance in Massachusetts."

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