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SUFFERN, NY-Avon Products, which began operations here more than 100 years ago, will break ground in a few weeks on a new research and development facility in Rockland County that company officials now say will cost about $100 million to complete.

The company has scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony on August 6 at its property in downtown Suffern. The event, which is expected to attract state and local dignitaries, will begin at 10 a.m.

Victor Beaudet, a company spokesman, says the project which involves the construction of a new 225,000-sf “state of the art global research and development center,” will begin in August and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2005. Avon has retained Skanska USA Building as the construction manager and HLW International as the architect for the project.

After the three-story research and development center is completed, Avon will then begin work on demolishing the existing 375,000-sf local manufacturing plant. The company, which estimated the redevelopment project would cost approximately $93.6 million in papers filed with the Rockland Industrial Development Agency, has now put the price tag at about $100 million.

Several months ago Avon, which has conducted operations in Suffern for 105 years, began transferring manufacturing employees from here to other Avon plants in the US. On May 23 the company conducted the last day of manufacturing operations at the Suffern site. The new research and development facility, when finished, will serve as the company’s sole worldwide research and development complex. The firm operates a total of 17 manufacturing plants worldwide.

The company currently employs 285 research and development workers in Suffern and expects to add an additional 70 employees to its staff in the next 10 years.

In late May, Avon cleared a significant regulatory hurdle on the Suffern project when the Rockland Industrial Development Agency unanimously approved an authorizing resolution which affords the company exemptions on state sales and mortgage taxes and also allows the cosmetics giant to enter into Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreements with Rockland County, the Village of Suffern, Town of Ramapo and the local school district. According to papers filed with the Rockland IDA, Avon will save approximately $3.6 million in state sales taxes due to the exemptions granted by the agency. Shortly thereafter, Avon received all the necessary municipal approvals that allow it to proceed with construction.

The New York State Empire State Development Corp. has also offered a grant to the company of $650,000 for the new research and development facility in Suffern.

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