Tech Met seals deal for Donora Industrial Park site

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

A longtime Mon Valley manufacturer with ties to the aerospace industry has landed – officially – at Donora Industrial Park.

Tech Met Inc., a Glassport company since 1988, is expanding its operations to a second location. It closed a deal Friday afternoon to purchase the property at 79 E. Eighth St., a building previously operated by Poly One Corp., which shuttered about three years ago.

The total cost of the transaction is not known. Tech Met did receive two tax-exempt bank loans, totaling $3 million, through Washington County Industrial Development Authority, the conduit agency and an arm of Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The company got $1.6 million for property acquisition and construction costs and $1.4 million for new equipment. No taxpayer money or government guaranty was involved.

An employee-owned entity, Tech Met eventually will hire 41 for the new location. Employees bought out the founder and previous owner, Gary Reed, in March 2015.

“It’s very exciting to be going into Donora,” said Jim Ringer, chief financial officer and general manager, who has been immersed in the whirlwind process from the start. “It’s amazing how quickly the year has gone,”

Gov. Tom Wolf announced in early April the company would be expanding to Donora, and six months later, the sale was completed. The closing, however, was delayed about a month because of environmental issues that had to be resolved on the site of the former U.S. Steel plant.

Tech Met provides chemical milling services on fabricated components. The company produces high-temperature titanium and ferrous alloys, and is a major player in the aerospace engine fabricating market in the eastern United States.

Ringer said his firm also does a lot of work with Perryman Corp., General Electric, Bell Helicopter, and the defense and medical industries. Meadow Lands-based Perryman, he added, is his company’s primary medical customer.

Nineteen miles, one river and one bridge to the south, Tech Met is more than doubling its footprint and workforce. The firm’s Glassport facility, in southern Allegheny County, has 51,000 square feet of work space across four buildings to accommodate 33 employees. Copperweld Corp., a steel company, operated on that site for more than a half-century before closing in 1983.

Jeff Kotula, executive director of the industrial development authority, embraces Tech Met’s decision to develop a second home in Donora. “This is the exact kind of advanced manufacturing company we welcome and need in Washington County to ensure our long-term economic success.”

Thus far, 10 have been hired for Donora. They will work in a building with 88,275 square feet, although Ringer said the company initially will use 52,000 to 54,000 square feet.

There is a lot of work ahead on the entire property, though – and little time to do it. The building, in its current state, is a mess, further besmirched by vandals who spray-painted anti-police messages outside.

“We have to do the parking lot to the roof,” Ringer said. “We have to redo fencing and probably start with some temporary signage.”

With customers’ orders due in the fourth quarter or in early 2017, Ringer and president Mike Vidra are pushing for the equipment, currently in crates, to be installed by mid-November with initial product shipments going out in December or January.

Tech Met, according to Ringer, plans to be a good soldier in the community. “Because we do a lot of defense work, we spend a lot of money on veterans causes. They’re very near and dear to our hearts.”

Near and dear, indeed. Reed, the founder, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy; Vidra is a former Marine; Ringer has a son in the Navy.

The company, Ringer added, has already reached out to the Veterans Council of Donora.

This is not the only company moving into the industrial park and bringing jobs with it. Retal Industries Ltd., a global plastics producer based in Cyprus, is establishing its U.S. headquarters there, renovating a 143,000-square-foot space previously occupied by Spartech Polycom, likewise a plastics manufacturer. The company pledges to employ a minimum of 88 within three years.

At Tech Met, you could call the CFO “Ringer the Ranger.” He is a 1982 graduate of Fort Cherry High School, with relatives still residing around Hickory and McDonald. Ringer, a Waynesburg University alum, now lives in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County.

Professionally, he is returning to his childhood roots – Washington County. Eagerly returning.

“We’re looking forward to moving in.”