Penn-Northwest Brings 2 Manufacturers to Mercer County

MERCER, Pa. — The Shenango Valley is increasingly tracking as more than mere blips on the radar screens of out-of-state and international companies seeking to relocate or expand their production and distribution operations, development officials say.

“We have four new companies committed to Mercer County,” says Randy Seitz, CEO of Penn-Northwest Development Corp., based in Mercer, Pa. “It’s a great time to be in our region.”

Setiz says that the development agency’s fiscal year for 2016 ended June 30, and within that year, the organization pursued 140 leads, sent out 80 proposals, and generated 16 site visits. Out of those 16 visits, four companies have thus far committed to doing business in the county. These four companies represent between $20 million and $25 million in new investment and another 100 jobs.

Two in particular – Austin Rubber LLC., a startup, and Mangrove Jack – are in the process of setting up business operations, which together could mean another 50 or more jobs in the county, Seitz says.

Austin Rubber is preparing to lease about 30,000-square feet of space at Ilsco’s aluminum extrusion plant in Greenville, Seitz reports. The company has spent four years of beta testing a process to de-vulcanize rubber at its laboratory in Austin, Texas, so the material can be recycled into other products. “They’ve developed a process to break the carbon bonds, so tires could be ground into powder and remolded into something else,” such as the sole of a tennis shoe. “It’s a leading edge environmental company.”

When in production, Austin Rubber could employ between 30 and 35 people; the average wage for a production worker is about $30,000, while engineers for the company could earn as much as $100,000, Seitz says. The company selected the Ilsco site because one of the investors in Austin Rubber is also an investor in Ilsco. “When management was talking, Ilsco had some surplus space,” he says.

Seitz says Austin Rubber could be operational within 90 days.

“This partnership with Ilsco is an important milestone for Austin Rubber as we head towards large commercial scale production,” said Austin Rubber’s president, Fitz Lee, in a prepared statement when the project was announced. “Austin Rubber looks forward to receiving the benefit of Ilsco’s deep experience in manufacturing, operations, and logistics to bring our solution for high quality scrap rubber recycling to the global market.”

Another company looking to move into Mercer County is Mangrove Jack Marine, a manufacturer of small, lightweight trailers directed at the sportsman’s market, Seitz says. “It’s a boat trailer that you can unfold in about 20 seconds and store in your garage,” he says.

The company came to Mercer County through another Ilsco lead, Seitz says, as Mangrove Jack was shopping for another company to extrude aluminum parts. “Right now, the product is extruded and welded in China, and is then shipped to a facility in Australia,” Seitz says.

However, Mangrove Jack’s owners found that it was more efficient to manufacture the product in the United States and then ship to Australia for distribution, Seitz notes. “I don’t think we’ve ever heard of that here,” he says. “They’re excited about the move.”

The husband and wife team will set up in a temporary location in the Sharon area, and then scout for a more permanent site once their operations get underway. “They don’t want to make a final decision yet on a permanent location,” he says. However, when the couple arrived in Mercer County on a site visit, Seitz says they were sold on the region. “They loved the snow. They’re excited about the move.”

Seitz says the small trailer operation would be perfect for regional markets in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio, should the company opt to expand. “Between the waterways and the four-wheeler market – these trailers would be ideal. They’re excited about the market here.”

Other companies seeking to expand their operations have selected Mercer County as a location for their distribution and production hub, Seitz says. New Life Glass, a company based in the United Kingdom, has developed a process for removing lead from glass windows and recycling the clean glass into building material.

“They’re located in Dunkirk, N.Y., but are leasing about 100,000 square feet in Mercer County for storage,” Seitz notes.

A fourth company has also committed to do business in the region, Seitz says, but says it’s still premature to release details of the project.

Meanwhile, Penn-Northwest is in discussions with at least two international companies and several other businesses that are considering locating their operations to Mercer County. “We’re talking to a company from Spain that deals with railroad components, and a Turkish company that manufactures hardwood products,” he says.

In addition, the economic development agency is pursuing leads to bring a food processing company and two logistics and distribution firms to the region, Seitz says.

More recently, Seitz says he is encouraged at the continued cross-border cooperation with development officials in Ohio, especially the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber. He applauds the Chamber for inviting Penn-Northwest along on the Chamber’s “Victory In The Valley” tour, which culminated in a trip to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. “They brought in two dozen site selectors and invited us,” he says. That resulted in Seitz being introduced to five new site selection firms that he had never done business with.

“That could open the door for quite a bit of activity in the region,” Seitz says.

Pictured: Randy Seitz, CEO of Penn-Northwest Development Corp.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.