Manufacturers Invest $110M in Lawrence County

ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. – More than $110 million in new investment has poured into Lawrence County’s manufacturing sector over the last year, a signal that producers in this area of western Pennsylvania continue to improve their operations and expand their markets.

“These are very good times for us in terms of investment from a manufacturing standpoint,” said Linda Nitch, executive director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp.

In recognition of this achievement, the organization hosted its inaugural 2015 Impact Awards Luncheon Friday, when five companies were singled out for growth over the past year. These five comprise four operations in New Castle — Consolidated Glass Corp., Magnetic Lifting Technologies US, the New Castle Industrial Railroad, North American Forgemasters – and Portersville PRD, in Portersville in the eastern portion of the county.

Collectively, Niche said, these investments have led to the creation or retention of at least 200 jobs.

Much of the new investment is the result of one project – a commitment of more than $95 million to be precise – at North American Forgemasters, Nitch reported. That project entailed the addition of a 10,120-ton press capable of forging metal ingots that weigh more than 320,000 pounds.

North American Forgemasters is a joint venture between Scot Forge and Ellwood City Forge that was formed in 1997. The expansion project is directed to help restore the large forging business back to North America, said Judy Shaffer, quality assurance manager for NAF, who accepted the award on behalf of company President Mike Kamnikar.

“Much of that work has gone overseas for the last 20 years,” Shaffer said. “We’re looking to bring it back and that’s going to happen here in New Castle, Pa.”

The partners in the venture are also investing money into upstream and downstream processing operations in their businesses to support the new forging operations. “The growth is going to continue and we’re very excited about this project,” Shaffer said. “By the end of the year we’re looking to press some very heavy metal.”

These forgings would be used for commercial and Navy nuclear applications, shipbuilding, power generation and large machinery and mining.

Another major investment over the past year is Consolidated Glass’ more than $1 million upgrade and addition of a new tempering furnace at its plant in Taylor Township, said inside sales representative Shane Merryman.

“We decided we needed to increase our capacity,” Merryman said. “With this investment, we’ve done that by 2½ times and are able to provide our customers with the glass they need in the short amount of lead times they require.”

The company employs 65 and Merryman expects that number to grow as business increases.

Portersville PRD was honored for spending $6 million to build a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Shenango Township. The company manufactures valves for many industries and added 75 jobs to its operations here.

John Lockwood, sales manager, noted that the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. played a significant role in identifying a site for the project, which enabled the company to build close to its other operations.

Among the new companies to Lawrence County last year was Magnetic Lifting Technologies, said its owner, Patrick Koch. Magnetic Lifting relocated an operation from the Casey Industrial Park in Struthers, Ohio, and a year ago finished work on a 35,000-square-foot plant at the Neshannock Business Park.

“We bought the land and developed the building, custom-built for our applications and our manufacturing process, he said.

Magnetic Lifting, a subsidiary of H&K Equipment based in Coraopolis, manufactures large industrial electromagnets used in the scrap steel and slag industries.

A factor that helped sell the company on the Neshannock Park was Pennsylvania’s Keystone Opportunity Zone program, a package of incentives that abates state and local taxes until 2020, Koch said. “The tax incentives were appealing to us and so far, it’s a great fit.”

A fifth operation honored at the event – the New Castle Industrial Railroad, a Class II carrier – has put in more than $1 million to improve its operations, including a new locomotive, tracks and an addition to its building.

The luncheon, held at Shakespeare’s, attracted more than 150 business and development leaders and presented Dennis Davin, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, as its keynote speaker.

Davin told the group that Gov. Tom Wolf is working to reduce barriers to business expansion such as the commonwealth’s corporate net income tax, now at 9.99%, the second highest in the country.

This tax rate is one of the first things consultants look at when they advise major corporate clients looking to expand operations somewhere in the United States, Davin said. “When they see Pennsylvania’s corporate net income tax, it takes us off the short list,” he said. “We need to reduce that.”

Wolf has proposed cutting the corporate net tax in half to 4.99%, Davin said.

“We’re committed to fostering economic growth in Pennsylvania,” he said. “One of the things we’re focused on is manufacturing,” including advanced manufacturing and energy.

Other initiatives include a Job Creation Program, which adds $5 million in tax credits for manufacturers to create manufacturing jobs that pay well, Davin said. “That’ll translate into $100 million in additional payroll in Pennsylvania in one year,” he said.

Manufacturing, said LCEDC’s Nitch, remains the lifeblood of the county economy. Thirteen percent of all its jobs are in manufacturing, she added. These jobs pay an annual wage of $52,000. “Manufactures generate the most wealth because of their high demand for materials and services,” she said. “Manufacturing remains a strong economic force.”

Pictured: North American Forgemasters in New Castle, Pa. Photo posted at NaForgemasters.com. Courtesy of Michael Schultz Photography

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.