Economic Development

Penn-Northwest Seeks Land with Interstate Access

HERMITAGE, Pa. – Penn-Northwest Development Corp. is about 90 days away from closing on a new site that can be developed for prospective companies.

“We’ve narrowed it down to the No. 1 site that we like, but I can’t tell you where it is until we close on the property,” Randy Seitz, executive director of Penn Northwest, said following the organization’s annual meeting Thursday.

Penn-Northwest needs more land to market to companies, particularly sites near Interstates 79 and 80.

“That’s the danger of doing so well. We’re running out of available properties,” Seitz remarked. Penn-Northwest’s challenge is to identify property that can be shovel-ready and provides the needed visibility for companies that want to come to Mercer County.

Randy Seitz addresses annual meeting.

Penn-Northwest had “a lot of organizations” look at the area because of the highway infrastructure but moved onto other areas because there were no sites close to the interstate, said Doug Thomas, chairman of the building and sites committee. Many prospects went to Ohio, which had shovel-ready sites along the highway.

“As you all know, it’s very difficult to sell from an empty shopping cart,” he said.

Over the past five years, Penn-Northwest generated more than 1,900 leads and completed 400 project proposals that led to 70 site visits to Mercer County, reported James Grasso, president and CEO of Liberty Steel Products Inc. and chairman of Penn-Northwest’s board of directors.

“The result is 26 new companies chose to make it in Mercer County,” for a closing rate of 37% based on the site visits and the creation of more than 850 jobs, Grasso said.

“The bottom line, as Randy [Seitz] keeps on telling us, is if we fill the funnel with leads, his team has a very high success rate of bringing these companies to our communities,” he said.

Over the past five years, the organization assisted more than 250 local companies, resulting in more than 3,000 retained jobs and more than 1,000 new jobs, Grasso noted.

This year, the agency generated about 120 leads, sent out 83 proposals and conducted 16 site visits, resulting in four new companies coming to the area, Seitz said.

The agency recognized several businesses, organizations and individuals during the annual meeting.

New Industry Economic Impact awards were presented to:

  • Interstate Pipe & Supply Co., a wholesale distributor of pipes, valves, fittings and pumps. The company, which is establishing a new location along Route 208 in Grove City, is expected to invest $2.5 million and create 10 jobs.
  • Moretto Plastics Automation, which researches, develops and manufactures automation systems for the plastics processing industry, and is locating in the Jackson Center Industrial Park, where it expects to invest $5 million and potentially create 25 jobs.
  • Performance Automated Robotics, which designs and manufactures robotic welding systems for various industries. The company, which located in Sharpsville, plans to create three jobs and invest $500,000.
  • Wish Development, which has invested $1 million to develop an industrial park in Shenango Township off Interstate 376. The park already has its first tenant, ITU Absorbtech.

Local Industry Economic Impact Awards were presented to:

  • Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Greenville, which manufactures several brands and types of dog and cat food, including Rachel Ray’s Nutrish line and is working with Penn-Northwest on an expansion project.
  • G.W. Becker Inc., an overhead crane manufacturer in Hermitage, which completed a $1.5 million expansion project and created 14 jobs.
  • Imperial Systems Inc., a dust-collection equipment manufacturer in Mercer that is expanding into the former Chevron/Miller Industries building, investing $4 million, creating 15 jobs and retaining 50 jobs.
  • Joy Cone Co., which is building a 120,000-square-foot plant to support an additional product to be made at the Hermitage headquarters, for an overall capital investment of $22.6 million in the project’s first phase and leading to at least 30 additional jobs within five years.
  • Springfield Township, for its development, in collaboration with Mercer County and the Grove City Area School District, of a Tax Increment Financing district that will support development across 1,200 acres in the township. Projections call for the TIF district to support 815 permanent jobs and $662.5 million in workers’ income over 20 years.
  • Shenango Valley Economic Development Corp., which was awarded $3 million from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program on behalf of Winner Development, Sharon, to redevelop the former Westinghouse facility for multi-tenant space.
  • Improvement Movement Champion Awards were presented to Rich Epstein of Ekker, Kuster, McCall & Epstein; Lew Kachulis of Synergy Co., and Scott Free of First National Bank. Also receiving the award were Mercer County Commissioners Matt McConnell, Scott Boyd and Tim McGonigle; state Reps. Mark Longietti, Tedd Nesbit and Parke Wentling; and state Sen. Michelle Brooks for the role they played in keeping the State Correctional Institution-Mercer from being closed.

In addition, Thomas, founder and CEO of Thomas Construction Inc., Grove City, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thomas “has a really big desire for the betterment of Mercer County and our entire area,” Ken Faulconbridge, last year’s winner, said in presenting the award.

“As I continue to mature, I find a grateful heart serves me best,” Thomas said.

In addition to recognizing Tammy Calderwood, Penn Northwest’s marketing director, to recognize her for her help over the years, Thomas expressed his appreciation to his wife and daughter, as well as his friends in attendance and the employees who came.

“They were very grateful and gracious to come, and then I thought about it – I’m paying them anyway,” he joked to laughter.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.