Coatings Maker Coming Here; Reveals Plans After Ryan Event

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A North Carolina company that makes protective coatings for components in products from racecars to rockets should be operating out of a downtown location this winter.

United Protective Technologies LLC plans to hire 60 employees over the next four or five years, starting with an initial workforce of 30 when it opens in December or January, CEO Marty Efird said.

The Locust, N.C., company, which produces nanocomposite thin-film coatings to reduce friction and increase durability for commercial customers and the defense industry, “has a need to be in this region” to meet the needs of its customer base between western Pennsylvania and Michigan. UPT now serves customers from its headquarters in Locust, N.C., which is “too far,” Efird said.

“The simplest thing we do is a ring-and-pinion gear for Nascar,” Efird said. The company also provides coatings for components inside missiles so they don’t corrode. About 35% of UPT’s business is defense related, he said.

Efird was among the participants in a defense industry roundtable hosted by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan Friday morning. The company has a downtown area building selected for its Youngstown location but hasn’t closed on it yet, the CEO told reporters following the roundtable.

Information provided by Ryan’s office after the event reported that UPT has a building under contract across from Penguin City Brewing Co. 

UPT looked at “multiple cities” to locate its new operation but had “not found the support that you have here from mainly the skilled production standpoint,” Efird said. The workforce will include about 45 skilled labor positions such as technicians, he said.

The roundtable, held at the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Tech Block Building 5, included YBI and Brite Energy Innovators tenants, as well as officials from Youngstown State University and YBI.

Local initiatives have focused on how to align with broader national networks to bring “next generation jobs” to older industrial communities such as Youngstown and Akron, Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said.

Advanced manufacturing companies have needs that include access to the right tools, skilled workers and access to 5G, said Ahsan Choudhuri, associate vice present and director of the University of Texas at El Paso Aerospace Center, UTEP has a digital design center housed at YBI.

“You need technicians as well as you need the scientists,” added Randy Gilmore, vice president and chief development officer for the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, said. “The next step for us is how do we connect to the small business in the region so  that they can take advantage of the tools that are being developed in the labs and use them for their benefit.”

Small and medium-sized businesses need a “one-stop” shop because so much information is out there, Jennifer Oddo, executive director of YSU’s division for workforce education and innovation, said.

Choudhuri praised efforts to develop the local advanced manufacturing ecosystem. “This is amazing leadership,” he remarked.

That ecosystem is what drew Ursa Major Technologies, which uses 3D-printing technology to manufacture rocket components, to open an office at YBI’s Tech Block Building 5, Jesse Blacker, director of government business development, said.

“The ecosystem that has been developed here is actually incredible,” he said. “We found the workforce very attractive to find candidates.” 

One challenge for companies, he continued, is finding suitable space for expansion. There is a lot of space available but much of it is “from another century” and isn’t move-in ready, he said.   

Ryan said the takeaway from Friday’s event, held on the eve of the rally featuring former President Donald Trump in support of the GOP U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance, was that the “stupid fights that we have in Washington” hinder efforts to collaborate.

“This is about business and government and education coming together in public private partnerships to create the new middle class to dominate these industries of the future,” he said.   

Ryan, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, pointed to his past efforts to challenge leaders of his own party, including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama. Republicans have attempted to portray him as a Democratic politician who rarely strays from the party.

“I’m the guy who takes on my own party when need be and I’ve agreed with Trump on trade and some of these other issues,” he said, “That’s what Ohioans want.”

Additionally, he pointed to the $15 million Vance received from billionaire Peter Thiel and the $30 million allocated to the race by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, “dark money from big corporations who shipped our jobs overseas over the last 30 or 40 years.”

He acknowledged the rally in his congressional district was an attempt to cut into his local support but added that Vance “can’t carry his own message” to voters.

“He needs Ron DeSantis, He needs Donald Trump,” Ryan said. “He needs everybody else to come in and try to make the case for him because he can’t make the case for himself.”

Pictured at top from left: Ahsan Choudhuri, Univerity of Texas at El Paso; Jesse Blacker, Ursa Major; Randy Gilmore, National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining; U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.