A manufacturer of sophisticated lenses, cameras and laser systems is relocating its headquarters to Pittsburgh’s Strip District, another example of the city’s rise as a center of technology and advanced manufacturing.
Excelitas Technologies, based in Waltham, Mass., has committed to a 12-year lease in the onetime warehouse district that’s now home to an increasing number of tech companies. The location on Railroad Street most recently housed an autonomous vehicle company. Excelitas opens there in early summer.
The company will create at least 250 jobs in Pittsburgh over the next four years and invest $2.3 million in its move, an amount matched by a $2.3 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
“It’s a major win for the region. We want to secure opportunities to attract this kind of company. This reflects the involvement of the governor and the state,” said Matt Smith, a member of the Allegheny County Airport Authority board and chief growth officer at the Allegheny Conference, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic development in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Excelitas will also be encouraged to apply for research and development tax credits as well, said Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.
“For the past year, I’ve been telling the world that Pennsylvania is open for business. Excelitas clearly agrees,” Shapiro said in a release. “We are competitive as hell, and today’s announcement that Excelitas chose Pennsylvania over Ohio is a huge win for Pittsburgh.”
Excelitas now has more than 8,300 employees and operates at 33 locations in North America, Europe, and Asia. The company’s products are used in a variety of industries, including automotive, consumer products, defense and aerospace, industrial, medical, safety and security.
From steel to tech
Shapiro and Smith say the company’s decision signals that Western Pennsylvania, known globally since the 19th century for heavy manufacturing, is now a national hub for life sciences and robotics technologies.
Those factors made the difference when Excelitas undertook a site selection process, CEO Ron Keating said.
“We are proud to call Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania home,” Keating said. “Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region have developed a significant high-technology presence.”
Excelitas CEO Ron Keating cited the region’s history of heavy manufacturing and growing technology scene for the company selecting Pittsburgh as its new headquarters. (Courtesy of Excelitas Technologies)
Pittsburgh lifestyle a draw
Yet Dan Brailer, vice president of communications and investor relations at Excelitas, said the decision to locate in Pittsburgh was based on more than financial incentives.
He pointed to nearby Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, both world-class research institutions.
“We’re seeing an influx of a lot of technology companies in that part of Pittsburgh, so we really felt that for the various lifestyle amenities, and the very attractive cost of living, and a solid source for talent — as Excelitas grows — we felt that all of those factors really pointed to a decision rationale that made sense for us,” Brailer told Photonics Spectra, a magazine that follows the industry.
According to Smith, Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams, museums, theater and its orchestra are strong selling points when promoting the city.
“There are bigger cities that do not have what we do,” Smith said.
Excelitas latest to make move
Excelitas is not the only such business lured to Pittsburgh in recent months.
In May, 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.
That investment includes $18.75 million in state grants and loans.
And Form Energy, a Massachusetts manufacturer of an iron-air battery capable of storing energy for days, plans to build a $760 million manufacturing facility at the site of the shuttered Weirton Steel in Weirton, W.Va., 20 miles from Pittsburgh International Airport.
That facility will employ 750 people.