Former PPG Shop in Ford City gets sold

| Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 8:05 p.m.

The former PPG Shop 2 and Foundry buildings on about eight acres in the Ford City Heritage Industrial and Technology Park along the Allegheny River have been purchased by a manufacturing company.

This week, BelleFlex Technologies, a subsidiary of Blair Strip Steel Co., acquired the 90,000 square feet of light industrial space from Farmers & Merchants Bank of Western Pennsylvania. The purchase price was not revealed by officials.

In 2010, Blair launched BelleFlex Technologies, a manufacturing subsidiary which it says is dedicated to producing world-class, engineered Belleville disc springs. BelleFlex supplies disc springs to the energy market used in flange bolting, industrial valve, and downhole drilling applications.

BelleFlex Technologies will immediately occupy 30,000 square feet of the 60,000 square foot building once occupied by Caracal. A separate 30,000-square-foot building included in the sale to Blair will continue to be leased to long-time tenant OEM Shades.

"In 2010, we started BelleFlex with one employee and today we employ 24 people," said Bruce Kinney, president and CEO of Blair Strip Steel. "BelleFlex has grown quicker than planned and we've simply outgrown the 20,000 square foot facility we lease today. We're excited to have the Ford City complex as our new, permanent location in order to meet our growth expectations. It also allows us to remain in Armstrong County (the operation is currently renting space in South Buffalo), where many of our current employees live. Our growth has followed the expanding energy industry both at home and overseas. We support the domestic industry in the Gulf States and Western Canada, but have also started to spread into the global energy markets in Asia, South America and the Middle East. Down the line, the Ford City facility will provide the space we'll need to expand our product line, while incrementally and strategically adding employees."

Kinney said that when starting the business in Armstrong County two years ago, he worked closely with the county's Industrial Development Council.

"I told their executive director, Mike Coonley, that we're very proud of the history that Blair Strip Steel has had over our 85 years in business," he said. " In fact, the Blair family's involvement in iron and steel goes back to the late 1700s in Blair County, near Altoona, then in Pittsburgh during the 1800s - so Western Pennsylvania has always been our home. We take a long-term view and quietly go about our business making high quality metallurgical products. Developing a talented and dedicated work force is the reason we've succeeded for decades and the best way to insure that we're still around many decades from now. We expect nothing less from Belleflex."

For Richard Krauland, president and CEO of Farmers & Merchants Bank and and Armstrong County Industrial Development Council board member, the sale of the building means putting the facility into the proper manufacturing hands.

"The bank has owned the property for about two years now," said Krauland. "All along we were optimistic that we could find a solid manufacturing company to occupy this space. We are extremely pleased that a company with the character and long history of success, as Blair Strip Steel has, decided to continue their growth in Ford City. This is a very good day for Ford City, and the Farmers and Merchants Bank is very happy to be a part of it."

"I cannot say enough about the work of the staff of the county's Industrial Development Council," he added. "This day would not have happened without the efforts of Mike Coonley and his people. The deal was headed out of the county until Mike got involved. Not only did the IDC attract the interest of Blair Steel, but they also were instrumental in working the parties through the complicated environmental issues that had to be understood and overcome. They really do deserve an enormous amount of credit for this achievement."

State Rep Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City, said his hometown will welcome BelleFlex Technologies with open arms.

"What better way to utilize the building along Second Avenue than to fill it with a manufacturer that created 24 jobs in two years and had to buy a large building to keep pace with projections," said Pyle. "BelleFlex is a perfect fit for the building they purchased."

"This is the first time in over 30 years that these buildings will be owned by private industry," Pyle added. "The buildings purchased by Blair Strip Steel Co. were sold from Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. to the MACADO (the Middle Armstrong County Area Development Organization) in 1981. Since that time, these buildings have been owned by the Borough of Ford City or designated nonprofit economic development groups. There was a significant amount of federal and state funds that were used to redevelop this site. I can say without reservation, along with my counterpart in the Senate, Don White, and our county commissioners, seeing a manufacturer return as the owner of this property for the first time in over 30 years, feels great."

Officials say BelleFlex Technologies will immediately start work at the Ford City facility to make it meet its specific needs. A move-in date has not been determined.

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