The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 29, 2014

Ohio vs. Pennsylvania

Offers made, let bidding for Laird begin

By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor

WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA, EASTERN OHIO — An Ohio deal for Laird Technologies Inc. to settle its Sharpsville operations in Warren has created the aura of a bidding war with Pennsylvania.

On Monday the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 55 percent, nine-year job creation tax credit package for Laird, formerly known as Cattron Co., to move from Sharpsville to Warren. The project is expected to create 55 jobs and $3 million in payroll in addition to its current $9.5 million payroll, said the authority, which also noted Laird is considering sites in Pennsylvania.

No exact location was given for Warren except to say it would be housed in an existing building. Warren has several empty buildings that once were used by Packard Electric, now known as Delphi.

In September, Pennsylvania announced it awarded a $2.5 million grant to Laird for construction of a $16.3 million operation in LindenPointe technical business park in Hermitage. The plan, as presented by the electronics producer, was to build a 70,000-square-foot building and create 75 new jobs in addition to the 125 it employs in Sharpsville.

At the time, Laird said its 30,000-square-foot complex in Sharpsville is far too small and the company needed a much larger building. While other sites in Sharpsville were offered, Laird selected Hermitage. Laird’s tax abatements in Sharpsville expired a couple years ago.

When asked if it looks like Laird is positioning itself for an all-or-nothing proposition when it comes to locations, Sharpsville Borough Manager Ken Robertson responded, “I’m getting that feeling.’’

A call to a Laird representative wasn’t returned Tuesday evening.

Robertson said he was told by a couple of Laird employees a few weeks ago that the company is taking a serious look at locations in Warren.

“There were lots of rumors, nothing official,’’ he said.

Robertson said Laird officials were clear in wanting to bring everything under one roof and be closer to an interstate highway. Currently, Laird occupies three buildings in the borough.

Robertson held out an ever-so-very-small longshot chance that Sharpsville is still in the running.

“We have a community that’s family-oriented and cares about the business,’’ Robertson said. “But they (Laird) need to make the announcement and let us know their plans.’’   

It’s common for states to vie with each other to lure and keep businesses. Inducements such as tax abatements, grants and low-interest loans are regularly offered to win jobs and potential construction projects.

Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio regularly compete with each other to land such deals.

Pennsylvania was a recent winner in attracting Noise Solutions to Sharon. The company, which produces noise-baffling equipment for the drilling industry, received such goodies as state grants of $56,700 for job training of the new workforce, $378,000 from the Pennsylvania First Program for building construction and job creation, and $378,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits.

But there are times when the state jockeying for businesses can get ugly.

In the late 1980s, wholesale food distributor Peter J. Schmitt let it be known it was looking for sites along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border to build a large warehouse. At the time the company had a small warehouse in Sharon.

The vying led to bitter labor relations and hard resentment when Schmitt passed over a Hermitage location in favor of a site in North Jackson, Ohio. Ohio offered a hefty financial package to land the company.

A few years after the warehouse was built, Schmitt filed for bankruptcy and the warehouse closed.

Laird’s Sharpsville operation was founded by James Cattron in 1946. In 2010, Cattron was purchased by British-based conglomerate Laird PLC as part of its technologies division.