MIDA's on a roll, president says
Shorty after Ron Monack became president of the Middle Monongahela Industrial Development Association board in early 2011, MIDA was faced with a challenge to further development in the Alta Vista business park.
Gardner Denver Nash had committed to move its divisional global headquarters and North American distribution center to the Fallowfield Township park. But the company that produces liquid ring pumps and compressors for use in the oil and gas, petrochemical, paper, mining and general industrial products industries needed access to a lot of water for its huge water suppression system.
Gardner Denver Nash eyed a lot on higher ground in the park, but the water system lacked the flow to power up to that site.
So, MIDA built a new 12-inch water line from right below Pine Cove on state Route 481 to the Alta Vista property, exceeding the company's requirements.
“We completed it two days before the deadline for Gardner Denver Nash to move in,” Monack. “We built 8,220 feet of water line on township roads plus 2,000 feet in the park.”
Alta Vista is the first park that MIDA has built, Monack said, having “inherited” the Donora Industrial Park property when U.S. Steel closed there in the 1960s as well as the Speers park when MIDA merged with the Greater Charleroi Industrial Development Corp. in 1998.
“Alta Vista is the first park MIDA built from raw ground to finished property,” Monack said. “It's been turning out pretty good.”
Monack was president of the GCIDC board during the merger. He said the merger made sense in order to advance economic development at industrial sites in the Valley.
“There were too many agencies chasing the same thing,” Monack said. “Everyone was chasing the same state and federal dollars. It was better to merge and have more political clout.”
In spring 2000, MIDA announced plans to develop Alta Vista. Progeny Systems, a naval defense contractor, was the cornerstone occupant for phase I, moving there in 2002. Excide Battery followed.
But when Monack took over the leadership role in early 2011, there were few other leads.
Early on, Alta Vista development was spurred by Fratelli Partners, a partnership of brothers John, Dave, Mike and Dan LaCarte, who operate the family business Model Cleaners, headquartered out of Charleroi.
Fratelli Partners constructed the home for Progeny Systems, initially constructed as a spec building with no identifiable tenant.
The LaCartes' development company would also attract Exide Technologies and Techno Care to the building. When Progeny Systems grew, Fratelli Partners expanded the building by 22,500-square feet.
Seeing the success of Fratelli Partners in its initial building, and with a grant from the Local Share Account, the proceeds of slots gaming revenue in Washington County, MIDA built a new spec building in phase I of the park.
At the same time, Fratelli Partners was negotiating with Weatherford, a drilling service company that supports the Marcellus shale industry.
Monack said the new water line “definitely enhanced the park.”
“There is no way the park could have taken on any other clients without that water line,” Monack said. “That 12-inch water line solved the problem of availability of water for future companies.”
Monack said Alta Vista has benefitted from leads provided by major real estate companies' corporate connections.
New leadership also helped kickstart the effort, Monack said.
“I put a lot of time in and when people see the leader, the president or the chairman, leading, they tend to pick up the pace,” Monack said.
Next spring when Scientific Drilling becomes the newest company to move in, Alta Vista firms will employ 2,000, Monack said. The company is currently constructing two buildings – one is an office/research and testing center, and other will be for its shop.
In phase I of the park, 10 acres are left out of the initial 40 acres, Monack said.
Phase II provides the next challenge.
Waukesha-Pearce, a Houston, Texas-based company, distributes, rents and services engine-driven equipment and parts for the oil and gas and construction industries. Waukesha-Pierce will begin construction of its facility within the coming months in phase II of the park.
More than 80 percent of the roughly 100 acres of land there are still available.
MIDA Executive director LueAnn Pawlick promised a surprise announcement when officials dedicate Alta Drive today. Monack said that could involve a new firm to move in next to Waukesha-Pierce.
Currently, the oil and gas industry is driving development in the park, but MIDA has had inquiries from firms in other industries as well, Monack said.
Because state loans have been used in construction at Alta Vista, MIDA must meet certain ratios for jobs created per acre sold. MIDA eyes a ratio of eight to 10 jobs per acre at Alta Vista, Monack said.
The next step could be to create the Alta Vista formula – developing another business park from “raw ground to finished property” – elsewhere in the Valley.
“We've looked at a couple of parcels, but it's premature for us to take any action,” Monack said. “My position is we have over 80 acres at Alta Vista. Right now, we want to concentrate on Alta Vista.”
Still, MIDA officials are buoyed not only by the success they have had in attracting to Alta Vista but the success that those firms have had. He noted that Weatherford is an international corporation and Gardner Denver Nash is listed on the Standard & Poor's and Fortune 500 lists.
“These are top companies,” Monack said. “There are no marginal companies here. This has given us the impetus to move on.”
The goal for now is to keep the momentum going at Alta Vista.
“With Alta Drive completed, that opens up the vast majority of that 80 plus acres,” Monack said. “Those acres were there, but we did not have access to all of them.
“We've had people come up and look, but (until now) they were not pad ready.”
Monack acknowledged that much has occurred at Alta Vista since early 2011.
“MIDA's on a roll,” Monack said. “MIDA is a stronger organization financially than it was two years ago. And that's why they are in a position to look around for another park. MIDA had a lot of debt and we've cleaned up our balance sheet.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.