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WESTERN PA. Manufacturers receive development grants



Published: Sat, July 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Businesses in Mercer and Lawrence counties will get about $3.6 million.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's visit to the Shenango Valley on Friday brought with it about $3.6 million in economic development funds.

Rendell made a stop in Mercer, where he announced that three manufacturing companies in the county would receive about $3 million in grants to help them expand and create new jobs. The governor also met with local officials and business leaders in New Castle and presented a check for $577,000 to the owners of a ceramics plant for an expansion project.

The owners of Shenango Advanced Ceramics in New Castle received a disbursement from the state in the form of more than $25,000 in grants and nearly $500,000 in low-interest loans.

Michael J. Atkins, a partner and company president, said some of the funds will be used to offset the cost of upgrading the plant, especially through the purchasing of new equipment. He said the upgrading process is a three-year project that will supply an additional 19 full-time jobs. The plant now has 22 workers.

"We're very happy about this," he said. "It will help us so much by giving us the boost we need. These are good jobs with a full benefits package. These are jobs that support families."

The plant, formerly known as Shenango Refractors, has been designing and supplying made-to-order stock kiln furniture for more than 50 years.

Atkins said the company is looking to develop other ceramic businesses to support the semiconductor industry and to explore producing ceramic armor for the federal government and armed forces.

Promoting growth

Rendell, surrounded by elected local, city and state officials, said economic growth experts and elected officials on the local level are encouraged to present their plans for various projects designed to promote economic growth to his action team. The team reviews those plans and, if they are workable, look into ways of bringing money in to help fund them.

"We're willing to do what we can," he told about 100 people gathered at the company. "If the ideas are here, and the need is here, and the growth is here, I'll be back," he said. "We just need people on a local level willing to work to make it happen. We have that here, in this factory, in this community."

In his visit to Mercer, Rendell told officials and county residents that the state wanted to help Mercer County "become a truly diverse great manufacturing hub again, with new technology and traditional technology."

Benefiting businesses

The CCL Container Corporation received $1.85 million in state funds. The company will add 50,000 square feet to its Hermitage facility located at 1 Llodio Drive.

CCL is a supplier of specialty packaging products for companies such as Johnson & amp; Johnson and Proctor & amp; Gamble. The grant will not only allow CCL to expand its plant but also offer job training assistance for the 61 new jobs it will create within the next three years.

Another county business to receive funding is Identifi Technologies, which has facilities in West Middlesex and Pittsburgh. The company will receive $156,000.

Identifi has developed new technology using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. RFID technology is a way of transmitting information about a product using radio waves instead of bar codes. Wal-Mart is already using this technology in its distribution centers, said Identifi CEO Nick Antonuccio.

The company will use the grant for the development of the new technology, and Antonuccio said he hopes to hire 35 new employees.

"I am delighted by the growth prospect and I hope to repay the state by creating high paying jobs," he said.

Keeping jobs here

A company based in Farrell, Premier Hydraulics Inc., received $1 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds.

The manufacturing company makes items such as special fittings, check valves, filters and swivels. Due to the growth of the Farrell operation the facility was not large enough to support the growing manufacturer's needs, Kyle Klaric, the company's president said.

"There was nowhere for us to go within Farrell and we had to look outside of the area and even considered Ohio until Sharon Mayor Dave Ryan contacted us," Klaric said.

Ryan worked with the governor's office in helping obtain the grant that would provide the necessary funding for the city to construct a 50,000-square-foot facility to lease to the company.




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