By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
A brownfield got a little greener – make that a lot greener – on Monday as Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley was on hand for a public unveiling of Sharon Fence Co.’s new manufacturing plant in Sharon.
“It’s a great story because it represents economic progress for the region,’’ Cawley told a gathering of more than 50 civic leaders.
Located along the Dock Street corridor, the site was once the home of National Castings Corp. The railroad parts producer closed its doors there in the early ’80s. Left unused for years, the site has been cleaned to allow for new businesses and expansions.
Sharon Fence’s new 55,000-square-foot production and office center is part of a $4 million project that was awarded a $708,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The grant was used to develop the newly created Renaissance Commerce Industrial Park in Sharon.
In addition to Sharon Fence Co., Wheatland Tube and Sunbelt Transformer also benefited from the improved industrial park.
“It sends a signal to the world Pennsylvania is open for business,’’ Cawley said. “This is a great Pennsylvania company that we were able to work with and keep here.’’
Sharon Fence is in the final stages of moving the remainder of its Wheatland operation to the Sharon location. The move will provide extra room to produce larger slide gates for industrial uses and expand capacity for creating chain-link fences. The business is a fence and railing supplier. In addition to traditional chain-link fences, it also offers wood, steel and vinyl fencing, custom gates and cantilevers and a variety of tools and accessories.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy, noted Sharon Fence co-owner David Smith. It required cobbling together a team of public and private resources. The first contact made about the project was on Sept. 24, 2009, he said.
“I’m not originally from the area. But now I feel connected.’’
Smith’s wife, Jessica who is a lawyer, was also involved in the project by overseeing the legal work involved in the construction.
Smith said a number of resources were called into service for the project, including Penn-Northwest Development Corp., the Shenango Valley Industrial Development Corp. and the city of Sharon.
In a short talk, Smith recounted the company’s history from its founding in 1964. Its original name was Sharon Metal Fence and it was operated by the Miller family. The Smiths purchased the business from them years ago and began growing the company. For that reason the new 850-foot access road in front of the building has been named Miller Court, Smith said..
After the formal event, Cawley spoke to reporters about the project.
“What I like most about it is it takes an abandoned brownfield site and puts it back to use,’’ he said of the new building.
He noted Sharon Fence has been able to tap into the natural gas industry which has seen explosive growth in Pennsylvania due to the vast gas deposits in the Marcellus shale.
“The great news of course is the national gas industry itself calls Pennsylvania the Saudi Arabia of the gas industry,’’ he said.
Others attending the event chimed in with their accolades about how the area worked together to create the project.
“This is another example of people working with private development, government and economic development,’’ said state Sen. Robet D. “Bob” Robbins, Salem Township, R-50th District.
Greg Koledin, CEO of Wesex Corp., which was the main contractor for the project, agreed with Robbins.
“I think everyone got a flavor of all the moving parts,’’ Koledin said of the people involved.
Mercer County Commissioner John Lechner said this was more than just a project about a single business.
“Companies are about the community,’’ Lechner said. “When a company grows, the community grows.’’