By Jordan Cohen
The announcement of a $215,000 road-improvement grant for the township’s industrial triangle means a long-term commitment to keep one plant’s 76 employees on the job at the current site, the company president said Thursday.
Dale Gebhardt, president and general manager of Flex-Strut, Inc., said the improvements to Commonwealth Avenue will better facilitate truck traffic to and from the plant and allow the company to expand.
“These roads were originally designed as residential roads, and they don’t have width and turning radius for 18-wheelers and flat beds,” Gebhardt said. “We’ve had four expansions, but we would have had to consider relocation if we decide on further expansion.”
Flex-Strut produces slot metal framing for a number of industrial applications including laboratory furniture and fire prevention equipment.
“Those roads were rural, narrowly built with ditches on the side and that made it really tough to maneuver the trucks to the plant,” said Darlene St. George, township administrator. “[Commonwealth] was never designed with industrial use in mind.”
The grant, announced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, will cover the costs of improvements at two locations — Commonwealth Avenue and North River Road, and Commonwealth and Phoenix Road.
St. George said the original grant application, to the Appalachian Regional Commission, required the township and Trumbull County to provide more than $22,000, or 10 percent, of the cost. To the administrator’s surprise, the ARC grant covers the entire project eliminating the need for a local share.
“This is really good news for us,” St. George said. The administrator said she does not yet have a timetable for the road work to begin.
Gebhardt said Flex-Strut has been in business since 1999 when it employed only four workers in a 12,500 square-foot workspace. Since then, the company has grown to more than 102,000 square feet and its current payroll of 76 workers.
“This will make it more of an industrial setting for our facility and everyone else around us,” the company president said. “With this improvement, we’re more committed to staying.”