The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

September 18, 2013

Laird's move disappointing for borough

By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor

SHARPSVILLE — Laird Technologies Inc.'s potential withdrawal from Sharpsville certainly wouldn't sink the borough - but it would take some wind out of its sails, said Borough Manager Ken Robertson.

"It will be a setback when Laird moves out," Robertson said Tuesday. "That doesn't take a lot of thinking to figure that out."

_On Monday the state announced it awarded a $2.5 million grant for a new $16.3 million center for Laird to be built at LindenPointe Innovation Business Center in Hermitage. The 70,000-square-foot building would mean 75 new jobs would be created by the electronics producer which currently employs 125 at its Sharpsville operations.

Laird has said itÕs 30,000 square-foot complex in Sharpsville is bursting at the seams and needs a much bigger building to expand. Hermitage officials said they are awaiting final approval of the deal from Laird Ð which could take up to two months. If the deal is approved Laird said it wants to move the Sharpsville operations to the Hermitage site by the end of 2014.

Sharpsville officials had more than just an inkling Laird was probably moving,Robertson said.

"We would be foolish to think that it wasn't coming," he said. "But it still hurts."

Based in London, Laird employs 9,000 worldwide. Locally though, the business and its succeeding companies has always called Sharpsville home and has meant a lot to the town. Laird is Sharpsville's largest private employer Ð Sharpsville School District is the largest overall. 

Robertson was clear that he was happy for Hermitage in getting the grant and being able to land Laird and wanted the company to grow and flourish.

"What's good for Hermitage is good for all of us. But if it's the moving of Laird from here to there, that's bad for Sharpsville. "We all paid to make that happen," he said of the grant which uses state tax dollars.

While Sharpsville made overtures to Laird about expanding in the town, little interest was shown by the company, he said.

"There was nothing we could do to stop it," Robertson said. "You have to have someone who wants to stay in Sharpsville Ð to look at other options presented to them."

In dollars generated by Laird in terms of property and employment taxes for Sharpsville or the school district, Robertson said he didn't have that figure immediately available but said it was "a good amount." The Sharpsville site had been designated a Keystone Opportunity Zone which reduces state and local taxes. But the KOZ designation expired a couple years ago, he said.

Property taxes will continue to be paid by Laird until the Sharpsville buildings it owns are sold to another enterprise. Wage tax from its employees goes back to a worker's home community. However, Sharpsville will take a hit on wage taxes from Laird workers living in Ohio.

"Because Ohio and Pennsylvania don't have a reciprocal agreement on wage taxes, all the Ohio residents who work at Laird - and there's a good number of them - we get to keep their wage tax," Robertson said. "That's the money we'll immediately lose if they move to Hermitage."

But Robertson said he was encouraged about the siteÕs future in talking with Randy Seitz, CEO of Penn-Northwest Development Corp. The agency is Mercer CountyÕs lead economic development group.

'He said he would do everything he could to market the facility," Robertson said. "We will look forward to that happening and getting the building utilized again."

Started in Sharpsville as Cattron Electronics in the 1950s by the late Jim Cattron, he gained fame after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957.

Shortly after the launch the American government lost track of earth's first satellite.  But by using his own electronic system Cattron was able to keep tabs on the satellite and swiftly notified the government of his findings.

In 2010 Laird Technologies acquired the former Cattron business which operates as the Laird Wireless Automation and Control Solutions business unit.

Laird Technologies designs and manufactures customized, performance-critical products for wireless and other advanced electronics applications. The company is a global market leader in the design and supply of electromagnetic interference shielding, thermal management products, mechanical actuation systems, signal integrity components and wireless antennae solutions, as well as radio frequency modules and systems.