Greenville Industrial Park Expands, Rebuilds from Fire

GREENVILLE, Pa. – Just off state Route 18 here sits a small reinforced-concrete blockhouse   that during World War II was used to store the currency paid American soldiers stationed at what was then called Camp Reynolds.

That small bunker has since been painted and turned into a marker that 70 years later guides visitors and vendors into an entirely different development – the Reynolds Industrial Park. The park is the core of a sprawling 1,100-acre business development that stands as the center of industrial growth in this part of the Shenango Valley.

Some of the buildings from the war era still stand, such as the low-ceiling barracks that were the last stop for the soldiers before they shipped out to Europe, North Africa or remote islands in the South Pacific.

“There were 40,000 troops here at one time,” says Brad Gosser, executive director at Greenville-Reynolds Development Corp., which today manages three business parks: the Reynolds Industrial Park, the Reynolds North Business Park and the Reynolds East Business Park.

Today, more than 40 businesses employ 1,400 people and operate from the three developments.

As the country made the transition back to a peacetime economy, the Army decommissioned the base and members of the local business community bought the land from the federal government in 1951, Gosser says. Their goal was to develop a business park and residential housing for the veterans returning from their service in Korea.

“We still have a few residential lots available,” Gosser says.

Over the years, the effort expanded to add acreage that surrounded the park, which companies found attractive because of the rail service. “We have a wide array of businesses here,” Gosser says. “We have wood products companies, steel fabricators, automotive suppliers, food service companies. It’s a little bit of everything.”

Most of the industrial space is filled at the three parks, Gosser reports, except for 400 acres. Last year, a fire swept through a portion of the Reynolds Industrial Park, destroying one building and sections of three others. “We’ve been in the process of having restoration done on some of the buildings and adding a replacement building,” he says. The fire took out some 35,000 square feet of space and displaced several companies that were relocated elsewhere in the park.

“We’re probably 80% of the way there,” Gosser says, as workers perform restoration work on one of the damaged structures.

Meanwhile, Greenville-Reynolds is gathering estimates for a new replacement building that would make up for the 35,000 square feet of space lost in the fire. “That’s a two-year process,” he says. “We have businesses already saying they would occupy it.”

The proposed building would be built on land Greenville-Reynolds recently acquired from ELG Metals, he says. An opportunity for additional expansion is also available on contiguous land directly south of the entrance to the park at the former Damascus Tube property.

“We’ve been working on this for about four years,’ Gosser says, “and we hope to close on that by year end.” The corporation could then move forward with cleanup and demolition at the site, preparing it for future use.

Greenville-Reynolds has cobbled together roughly $2.3 million through various grants that would be used for environmental remediation of the Damascus site.

“We have an end-user in mind that intends to buy and rebuild,” he reports.

Gosser says the parks benefit from state programs such as the Keystone Opportunity Zones, an initiative that forgives real estate taxes, state income taxes and capital stock taxes until 2023. “If a company is paying a lot of taxes, the savings can actually fund infrastructure growth,” he says.

Last summer, the three business parks spent about $1 million to upgrade their infrastructure, Gosser notes. Greenville-Reynolds operates its own water utility, Reynolds Water Co., and its own sewer utility, Reynolds Disposal Co. Both serve the Reynolds School District.

What‘s most encouraging is that several businesses here are growing despite a slowdown in the oil and gas industry, Gosser observes. Companies such as Salem Tube, which completed a major expansion within the last two years, is looking to add space again, he adds.

Penn TecQ, a manufacturer and supplier of automotive components, continues to do well and add employees. At 220 employees, “They’re our largest employer in the park,” Gosser notes. Another company, Woodcraft Inc., manufacturers kitchen cabinetry and is upgrading the sawdust silos on the property.

“One of the reasons they located here was because of the close proximity of the wood in this region: maple, hard maple, oak and cherry,” Gosser says.

The business parks have international connections as well. Salem Tube is a Spanish-owned company, while Penn TecQ is mostly a Japanese concern.

Three years ago, Derek Fitzgerald chose to move his business from Sharon to the park because his business had started to take off. “I was looking for a bigger facility but I couldn’t afford to buy a building,” he says.

His company, Zero Error Racing, manufactures components for a variety of race vehicles, including junior dragsters, mini-bikes – even bobsleds.

Once Fitzgerald discovered he could lease space in a building at Reynolds, he moved his equipment there and has since expanded his company’s capability. “At some point, I’d like to buy a building, but I just bought a laser engraver,” he says with a laugh.

Among the more recent additions to the park is Integrated Fabrication & Machine Inc., a company that manufactures and fabricates steel components mostly for the power transformer industry.

“We were in Sharpsville and actually had two plants there,” says Brent Ward, president of Integrated Fabrication. The rapid growth the company enjoyed, however, made it difficult to operate in two confined places and Ward wanted to consolidate under one roof.

A building that became available at the Reynolds North Park last year suited Integrated’s needs perfectly, Ward says. “We added 13 cranes,” he reports, and invested about $3.5 million in its expansion to the park.

“We moved the fabricating processes up here at the end of March,” he continues. “The finishing plant, which was on Canal Street behind the fabricating plant in Sharpsville was moved up here two weeks ago.”

The move places all of his business under one roof with 74,000 square feet of space, Ward says. As a result, the company has better streamlined its processes. “Basically, our guys laid this plant out,” he says. “We had a blank sheet of paper here.”

Integrated Fabrication uses all the tools of the manufacturing trades to produce engineered components for the industry, Ward notes. Welding, CNC machining, plasma cutting, press bending – all are just part of the everyday work cycle at the company to produce both small and large components for the electrical transformer industry.

Since Ward acquired the company in 2000, it’s grown from a 12-person operation with revenues of less than $1 million to doing more than $7 million worth of business with 50 employees.

Since the country has an aging electrical transformer grid and the demand for replacement parts is high, business looks promising, Ward says. “We make components for the power industry,” he elaborates. “Probably 99% of all the components we make are for the power grid.”

When the economy is strong, Gosser reports, Greenville-Reynolds would receive between 10 and 15 inquiries per month regarding new space or prospects to build. “About 85% of them are light, just checking,” he says. More recently, inquiries have dropped to between two and four a month.

That’s because the agency hasn’t marketed the industrial parks as aggressively as it used to, Gosser explains.

“We’re virtually full,” he says. “We haven’t really been marketing hard because we need to get buildings up.”

But, he observes, interest in Mercer County is on the rise: “There are some good marketable buildings with higher ceilings and crane capacity.”

Pictured: Reconstruction work underway at the industrial park.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.