Long legendary for heavy manufacturing, the Pittsburgh region is now attracting sophisticated precision manufacturing.
This month, investors and government officials announced $81 million in investment for a space north of the city that housed an aluminum factory for decades.
Re:Build Manufacturing’s facility, will occupy a 175,000-square foot space built by Alcoa and more recently occupied by Siemens. It is expected to create 300 full-time jobs over the next three years.
Officials said the state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility will make complex subcomponents and finished products for a host of different industries, including those involving aircraft, electric vehicles, medical devices, and new kinds of power production, according to the Post-Gazette.
The investment includes $18.75 million in state grants and loans.
Public officials praised the investment, while Re:Build’s executives say its plans will help reduce the sorts of supply chain disruptions that led to shortages everywhere from supermarkets to auto plants during the pandemic.
“This is a great win for the region and is part of revitalizing America’s manufacturing base,” said Matt Smith, a board member of the Allegheny County Airport Authority and chief growth officer at the Allegheny Conference, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic development in Southwestern Pennsylvania. “It is innovative technologies for advanced manufacturing in a city with a great legacy of manufacturing.”
The New Kensington Advanced Manufacturing Park, as the site will be called, represents a vast change from the days when molten steel poured from the region’s many blast furnaces.
Home to one of Alcoa’s earliest factories, the facility closed in 1971 and was never fully occupied again. Currently in disrepair, the New Kensington facility requires $31 million in renovations, which will be funded by grants or loans from government and foundations.
The site’s businesses are based on Pittsburgh’s best technology, said Pennsylvania’s governor, Josh Shapiro, and will focus on growing industries like energy, robotics, aerospace and biotech.
“I’m proud that Re:Build chose Western Pennsylvania for this project – sending a strong signal to other companies that Pennsylvania is open for business and we want you here,” Shapiro said. “Making our Commonwealth a leader in innovation, job creation, and economic development is a top priority for my administration, and we stand ready to continue making projects like this one possible.”
In recent years, Pittsburgh has become home to companies focusing on self-driving vehicles and trucks as well as sophisticated medical equipment. Such businesses are usually outgrowths of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.
“We are home, because of Carnegie Mellon, to many of the enabling technologies for manufacturing, like robotics and artificial intelligence,” said Smith.
Re:Build’s co-founder and chairman, Jeff Wilke, grew up near Pittsburgh and is attracted by the idea of industrial renewal.
“Growing up in the heartland, I experienced firsthand the impacts of the rise and fall of American manufacturing on the well-being of our country,” he said. “We created Re:Build to help our nation secure a more resilient future by investing in high tech manufacturing.”
Headquartered near Boston, Re:Build employs more than 850 people in 11 businesses with facilities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Colorado and California.
Re:Build selected the Pittsburgh area over other locations around the city and in other competing states.
The New Kensington project is not the only revitalization happening in the region.
Form Energy, a Massachusetts manufacturer of an iron air battery capable of storing of energy for days, plans to build a $760 million manufacturing facility at the site of the shuttered Weirton Streel in Weirton, W.Va., 20 miles from Pittsburgh International Airport.
The facility will employ 750 people.