Tony Kaper was already familiar with the former Cooper Industries plant in Grove City when Hall Industries Inc. started looking for just the right space in 2019.
"A lot of people have talked about the building," said Kaper, vice president of operations for Hall Technical Services LLC.
The property spans 28 acres on Lincoln Avenue, and it's now home to Hall Technical Services after 18 months of negotiations, repairs, cleanup and renovations.
Hall Industries is the parent company and is headquartered in Franklin Township, Beaver County near Ellwood City, and the overall deal was valued at about $12 million.
Hall Technical Services, known for manufacturing aviation products, is the sole supplier of push bars — hardware used for towing large airplanes on the ground — for Southwest Airlines.
The facility at 186 Lincoln Ave. houses Heyl and Patterson Inc., a company that operates under Hall Industries. Heyl's work includes bulk material handling and equipment for the mining and export sectors, said Brendan Jones, project manager for Heyl.
Jones said Heyl is making rotary car dumpers for a customer in Quebec. The devices are used to turn rail cars to unload heavy cargo such as ore.
The dumpers are large machines — a single piece of one weighs more than 25,000 pounds.
"It's a very niche company," he said.
Heyl is among a handful of companies of its type worldwide, and that business has been booming despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kaper, who lives in Sandy Lake and has been with Hall since 2003, said that some of the former Cooper Industries property is still being developed for potential tenants.
Hall has already spent about $500,000 on renovations and will continue to invest in the property. Kaper said he's gotten only positive feedback from area residents and community leaders, who are happy to see the old Cooper building back in operation after sitting vacant.
The Cooper Industries plant, which made compressors for natural gas and other industries, closed decades ago. The site has been used as a multi-tenant industrial dwelling that was privately owned, according to Allied News files.
Hall has about 30 employees and plans to add at least 60 more over the next three years, and the company wants to be active in the Grove City area. Even though the company has been operating for only a few months in the former Cooper building, it is already making its presence felt — Hall Technical Services is among the sponsor of this weekend's Grove City Strawberry Days.
Kaper is treasurer of the 79-80 Interstate Development Corporation and he attends Grove City council meetings.
"We want to stay connected. We have an open door policy," he said.
He thanked Penn-Northwest Development Corp., Mercer County State Bank, Grove City borough officials, Mercer County commissioners and the community for their support.
Hall Industries was founded in 1966 in Pittsburgh's South Side by Harold Hall, an engineer and World War II veteran, and the company is still owned by the Hall family.
The entire property along Lincoln Avenue covers 468,000 square feet. Hall received a $114,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for workforce training, plus a $723,000 Pennsylvania First grant and $2.65 million in loans through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.