Economic Development

At Lawrence Impact Awards, Cracker Is on Horizon

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to build a $6 billion ethane cracker plant less than 20 miles from here should have an impact that reverberates all across western Pennsylvania, and the commonwealth wants to be prepared.

“We need to make sure we have property that’s prepared for development,” said Dennis Davin, secretary of community and economic development for Pennsylvania. “The issue we’ve always faced is that companies that want to come here don’t want to wait two years before property is developed.”

The solution was to infuse the commonwealth’s Business In Our Sites program with $75 million that would be used to fund economic development agencies and developers so they could prepare sites for new business.

“That money is paid back once something lands on that site,” Davin said.

Davin delivered the keynote address Thursday at the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s third annual Economic Development Impact Awards ceremony, held Thursday in the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

“We have to develop a good inventory of properties – a variety of different sizes, a variety of different uses – on riverfronts, on highways, and on rail,” he told The Business Journal.

Shell’s cracker plant – under construction along the Ohio River near Monaca, Pa. – is already drawing the attention of companies related to the petrochemicals industry and those that are end-users of the polyethylene pellets the plant will produce, Davin reported.

“There’s no doubt that that’s going to happen,” he declared, even though the cracker won’t be commissioned until the early 2020s. “We’re already talking to companies that are looking at that.”

Moreover, the supply of ethane gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale could attract additional cracker plants to the Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia region, Davin suggested.

A study released in April shows that the region could accommodate as many as four additional cracker plants. “We’ve talked to really large petrochemical companies that are looking at this area,” the secretary said.

Disasters such as Hurricane Harvey – which heavily damaged petrochemical plants along the Gulf Coast – underscore the importance of repositioning these operations in other parts of the country such as the Appalachia, he added.

“We’ve thought all along that there are opportunities all across western Pennsylvania,” Davin said. “We want to get ahead of that.”

Davin delivered the keynote address at the Lawrence County Regional Chamber’s third annual Economic Impact Awards where six companies were recognized.

Horizon Supply Co. is a startup formed three years ago in New Castle to provide service to the industrial construction industry, primarily those serving the oil and gas business.

“They’ve doubled their size, and expanded into the eastern part of the state as well as Florida,” said Linda Nitch, director of economic and business development at the Lawrence County Regional Chamber.

The company is owned by four local men who saw a need to develop a supply chain for pipeline construction in the oil and gas industry, said Tom Mezzanotte, one of the owners. The company serves pipe construction in other industries as well, he noted.

Kent and Darrell Mitcheltree, owners of Mitcheltree Bros. Logging & Lumber Co. and Pulaski Industrial Corp., received an impact award for their venture into real estate through the purchase and rehabilitation of the former Metcoa property in Pulaski. The brothers bought a 37,000-square-foot building in 2016 that today houses part of their lumber business as well as other industrial tenants.

Bill Reznor, general manager at Silgan Plastic Closures Inc., accepted an impact award for his company that underwent a major expansion at its plant in Neshannock Township. The company, based in Stamford, Conn., is a major manufacturer of rigid packaging for consumer goods and operates 100 manufacturing plants globally. Last year, Silgan realized annual net sales of $3.6 billion.

Pittsburgh developer Tom Wilson received an impact award for his investment and redevelopment of Washington Centre in New Castle, which today has a tenant mix consisting of a real estate agent, a hair salon, financial adviser and law office. The developer has plans to purchase and redevelop the Temple Building on North Street.

Others receiving awards were the New Castle School of Trades and Wish Development, a development company that is building office and professional buildings at Ward’s Ridge in Neshannock Township.

The company intends to develop this parcel in several phases, said owner Michael Wish. The first is the construction of a 13,500-square-foot building that would house the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Records.

“Additionally, there will be two other building pads,” Wish said. The second building has a committed financial services tenant and Wish hopes others will follow suit. “An accounting firm, medical, or other professional-type practice would be fit,” he remarked, “but it also has a nice retail bent to it.”

Wish Development has two in-house architects and essentially engages clients from start to finish on build-to-suit projects, the owner said. “Before we ever give them a term sheet, we know what it is they need,” he said. “We design the space, permit the space, construct the space and turn it over to the client.”

Pictured at top: Sam B. Biasucci, president of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp.,  Justin Bruce , Bruce and Merrilees Electric Co., Kent and Darrell Mitcheltree, owners of  Mitcheltree Bros. Logging & Lumber Co. and Pulaski Industrial Corp.,  Dennis Davin, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, and Alexander McCoy, CEO of the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.