By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
A $2.5 million state grant was awarded Monday to construct a $16.3 million Laird Technologies Inc. operation in Hermitage.
The grant is part of a $16.3 million project by which Laird, now housed in a cramped 30,000-square-foot building in Sharpsville, will build a new 70,000-square-foot building at LindenPointe Innovative Business Campus. If the deal gets final approval from the electronics producer, plans call for the company to move its Sharpsville operations and offices to the new building.
Employing 125 in Sharpsville, Laird has previously said it wants to be housed in the new building by the end of 2014.
Penn-Northwest Development Corp., Mercer County’s lead economic development agency, and Hermitage officials said the project would mean 75 new jobs would be directly created by Laird. The project also would mean the retention and creation of 268 permanent indirect support, supplier and secondary industries jobs as well as the creation of 64 temporary construction jobs.
“With this new facility, Laird Technologies is taking a major step forward in making Western Pennsylvania a home for high-tech manufacturing,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a news release. “Laird Technologies will be a welcome addition to the LindenPointe Innovative Business Campus and will create high-skilled, well-paying jobs for Mercer County residents.”
Gary Hinkson and Gary Gulla, Hermitage city manager and assistant manager, respectively, were careful Monday afternoon about saying this was a done deal. Both said Laird must now approve the deal and were told that approval may take up to two months.
“Laird now has to act on this proposal,’’ Hinkson said.
Both men were actively involved in attracting Laird for over a year and said, if given the green light, the building would occupy 10 acres in LindenPointe.
“They also wanted first-right-of-refusal for adjoining land for future additional expansion,’’ Gulla said.
One decision that will have to be made by Laird is who will own the building.
“They could build it and own it or work out arrangements for somebody to build it and then lease it to them,’’ Hinkson said.
All involved in the project noted Laird had openly said they were actively looking for other sites and to land the company here would mean a major win.
In reacting to word that the grant had been received by the city, Randy Seitz, CEO of Penn-Northwest, was ecstatic.
“This is fantastic,’’ Seitz said. “Here you have a business bursting at the seams at its current site and you get the chance to keep and create high-paying, family-sustaining jobs here.’’
In looking at the multiplier effect in terms of jobs, he said the project could easily total 300 to 500 jobs in the greater community.
“This will help make us look attractive to other high-tech companies,’’ Seitz said. “From Penn-Northwest’s standpoint the opportunities are endless.’’
If the deal is completed, Laird’s Sharpsville site will move to the top of the agency’s inventory list, he added.
“We’ll work our tails off to see that Sharpsville doesn’t skip a beat,’’ he said.
Penn-Northwest is working to land a food processor company in the county, Seitz added.
Based in London, Laird Technologies manufactures components that protect electronic devices from electromagnetic interference and heat, as well as develops products that enable and enhance wireless and antennae connectivity. The company claims local roots in Sharpsville as the original operation there, Cattron Electronics, was created by Jim Cattron in the mid-20th century. He eventually sold the business.
Other local elected officials chimed in with their approval.
“This grant is an excellent investment by the state in a project that benefits a growing company with a proven track history of success in our community,’’ said State Sen. Bob Robbins, R-50th District, West Salem Township. “It also strengthens our local economy and provides the prospect of new job creation for the future.’’
“It’s always a good day when a home-grown business finds room to expand in Mercer County and adds more good paying jobs,’’ said state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7th Disctrict, Hermitage. “It was no secret that Laird had outgrown its existing facilities and that it was being aggressively courted to move to Ohio, so this investment is vital to keep good-paying jobs in our community and to provide for new growth.’’