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AO Eyewear Adds Equipment, Renovates Facility Thanks to $1.5 Million MassDevelopment Bond

April 2, 2014


Kelsey Abbruzzese, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2086 & 617-448-9077 (cell)
Alan McKinley, AO Eyewear, 508-764-3214

MassDevelopment has issued a $1.5 million tax-exempt bond on behalf of AO Eyewear, Inc., the Southbridge manufacturer of Original Pilots, aviator sunglasses worn by members of the U.S. military. The company will use bond proceeds to buy manufacturing equipment for its 12,000-square-foot Southbridge building and to renovate that facility. Equipment includes a fully automatic rim-forming machine, an ultrasonic cleaning system, self-contained frame washing stations, and two fully automatic frame induction soldering lines. In 2012, the company set a goal to move production and jobs back from China and have its product made 100 percent in the United States, and this equipment and renovation will assist in that objective. AO Eyewear estimates this project will create 15 jobs in Southbridge. Southbridge Savings Bank purchased the bond.

“AO Eyewear is part of a small but growing trend known as reshoring, in which U.S. manufacturers bring back jobs and production from overseas,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “We’re pleased to support companies like AO Eyewear and promote advanced manufacturing as an attractive career path through the AMP it up! campaign.”

AO Eyewear, formerly the metal frame division of American Optical Corporation, assembles, packages, and distributes sunglasses to military and civilian optical customers worldwide. The company is a preferred vendor with the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force Exchange Service, and the U.S. Navy Exchange and Command.

“Bringing manufacturing back to the United States is an important part of AO Eyewear’s long-term business model. MassDevelopment and Southbridge Savings Bank have been key factors in the financing aspect of that plan. We are proud to be a part of the reshoring initiative and look forward to hiring more people while our business grows,” said AO Eyewear President and Owner Alan McKinley.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2013, MassDevelopment financed or managed 350 projects generating investment of more than $2.4 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create more than 7,000 jobs and build or rehabilitate 800 residential units.