Warren native looking to bring L.A. company to former Packard site

By Ed Runyan



Christopher Alan, a 1980 graduate of Warren Western Reserve High School, stood in front of a worn mural on an inside wall of the huge former Packard Electric plant on Dana Street Northeast on Tuesday morning and described his vision for reusing that space.

His company, Los Angeles-based Auto Parkit, designs and manufactures automated parking structures that move and store automobiles in half the space of ramp parking.

The company has manufacturing and warehousing facilities in four states and wants to consolidate them into one location and also meet growing demand for its products.

Alan said at a news conference his company will be conducting its “due diligence” for the project over the next six to 12 months – researching financing options, seeking government help to eliminate potential environmental issues at the site and restore rail access.

The company will work with Mahoning Valley economic-development teams, the governor’s office and other state officials to determine whether the site will be workable, he said.

The 500,000-square-foot Packard site eventually could be home to Parkit’s headquarters and house its engineering, architecture and manufacturing facilities. That could mean 250 to 300 jobs in the next three years and 800 to 1,000 jobs within 10 years, he said.

The property owner, Sergio DiPaolo of Girard, leased the property to Auto Parkit, and the company already has begun to use the manufacturing building for storage of products, Alan said.

He noted that some of the manufacturing building “needs to be put back” because of demolition activity DiPaolo carried out there. Much of the roof has been removed from part of the building, a fact that is apparent by looking through the windows along Dana Street.

“We’d like to set it up as a warehouse initially and a distribution facility, and then, in the next three years, turn to manufacturing of the actual components here,” he said.

Alan has been looking for three years for the right location and has been courted by officials in Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada, who have offered lots of incentives, he said.

But Warren has the infrastructure in trucking, steelmaking, rail, tool and die and engineering that other locations don’t have, he said. One of the things that helps Warren and the former Packard facilities is that his parents both worked there and Alan grew up here.

“Knowing what used to be here and the infrastructure that was here quickly brought Warren back to the forefront for me to take a serious look at the town,” he said.

Alan said he won’t make a final decision for sentimental reasons, however.

“I’ve spent a lot of money already,” he said of the Packard site. “If I saw something that would stop the process [of continuing to move forward with this site], I wouldn’t be here.”

Alan gave his presentation in front of a classic Packard automobile on an Auto Parkit frame, referred to as a pallet. Both were beside a Packard Electric mural saying, “Over 100 years, the Packard tradition continues.”

“They were known as the best of the best,” Alan said of Packard. “And we have the new technology in parking storage ... which are pallets and conveyors and shuttles,” he said of the components used in Auto Parkit products.

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