Wheatland Tube Displays New Upgrades, Investments

HERMITAGE, Pa. – Wheatland Tube Corp. on Thursday unveiled two major investments underway at its plant on Council Avenue here. 

One, a recently completed $30 million hot galvanizing line, was recently commissioned. A second project, a more than $50 million automated warehousing and racking system, is under construction. 

A third investment has yet to be announced, company officials said, as they welcomed Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis to a tour of the plant. 

It’s all part of more than $130 million the plant’s owner, Zekelman Industries, has committed to the Wheatland Tube facility and a sister operation, Sharon Tube, in Farrell, Pa., said Kevin Kelly, president of the pipe division.

“They’re primarily aimed at automation, safety and productivity,” he said of the investments. “We need to be productive to compete in the global market. It’s pretty impressive to see some of the projects that we’ve got going on.”

Together, the Hermitage and Farrell plants generate $39 million in payroll, $42 million in federal and state taxes and employ 462 people, he told Davis. “For every job we have here, we estimate we create five jobs outside of our plant,” he said.

Thus it made sense that Davis, the youngest lieutenant governor in the country and the first African American to hold the office in Pennsylvania’s history, toured the plant Thursday as part of a reception to celebrate the successful merger of the borough of Wheatland into the city of Hermitage.

Davis observed that such a feat deserves recognition, since so often those who hold office or influence in small communities are reluctant to surrender power to larger political subdivisions.

“These leaders came together and said we’re going to put the community ahead of our own self-preservation,” he said.

The merger took effect Jan. 1. Companies such as Wheatland Tube that were previously located in the borough are now part of Hermitage. The effort was recognized with a Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence.

Mark Longietti, director of business and community development for Hermitage, said the merger benefits residents and companies through additional resources that they couldn’t realize under the administration of a small borough.

“The city has robust services,” he said. “We have a full-time manager; we can help businesses grow; we can help residents with amenities. So it really is a win-win all the way around.”

For example, he said the Borough of Wheatland levied a property tax rate of 24.75 mills. “Conversely, the city of Hermitage has five mills. Once the merger happened, property owners – businesses and residents – saw an 80% reduction in their municipal property taxes.”

Longietti added that the merger would allow companies such as Wheatland Tube to become more competitive and make it amenable for future investment and expansions.

Construction is underway on a $50 million automated warehousing and racking system at Wheatland Tube.

Wheatland Tube, part of the Broadway Avenue industrial corridor, manufactures standard pipe that is used for gas or water transmission, such as sprinkler systems. The company purchases steel coil – all from domestic producers – and forms them into pipe that is shipped to distribution centers. From there, the pipe is sold to companies that further process the pipe for use, for example, in sprinklers.

The plant recently completed a major investment of its hot dip galvanizing line, said Ned Feeney, general manager of operations.

“We’re just beginning production,” he said of the new line. “Our first and second shifts are trained. We’re training our third shift.”

At present, the plant is adding a 95,000-square-foot building that will house a fully automated warehouse, Feeney said. The company has three other such automated warehouses in Rochelle, Ill., Wheatland Tube’s plant in Warren and its Sharon Tube operation, he said. 

“Construction just started,” Feeney said. “We should be commissioning that next summer.”

Davis said it’s heartening that major employers such as Wheatland Tube are investing in the future. “It’s amazing and heartwarming to see a company that’s reinvesting in this community, a company that treats their workers well and that’s growing and thriving in Pennsylvania.”

Davis, who was reared in McKeesport, Pa., in the Mon Valley, understands the struggles of small communities. “If anybody’s familiar with those communities, they’re a series of small, former steel mill towns that have been struggling for a number of years to rebound from the collapse of the steel industry.”

He said the Hermitage-Wheatland merger demonstrates that leaders are able to transcend political boundaries to create more of an impact.

“You guys have successfully shown what can happen to a community when people put the petty politics aside and put people first and folks come together,” he said. “This is a model that every community could follow across the commonwealth.”

Pictured at top: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, left, and Ned Feeney, general manager of operations at Wheatland Tube.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.