$30M manufacturing plant planned in Findlay, Penn.

Location gives proximity to Pittsburgh International Airport


A $30 million manufacturing plant to be built near Pittsburgh International Airport to serve the global energy market is expected to employ 200 people by 2010, and eventually 300, officials said Wednesday.

A financial aid package of $9 million from the state and Allegheny County will help German-owned Flabeg Corp. create a business unit at the Clinton Commerce Park in Findlay that will manufacture glass and mirror components for solar panels in large-scale solar power plants, the company said at the construction site.

"It's like a gold rush at the moment. The market is tremendous," said Axel Buchholz, Flabeg CEO, at ceremonies marking the start of construction of the 209,000-square-foot manufacturing complex.

The Pittsburgh-based Buncher Co. is developer of the building that will include about 10,000 square feet of office space.

Demand is so high for the company's parabolic solar mirrors -- most coming for solar plants to be built in hot-weather markets such as the Southwest United States and the Far East -- that Flabeg has sold out orders for its projected capacity for the production plant's first phase, due to open in October 2009.

"So we've decided to build the second phase along with the first phase," he said.

Projections for electricity produced at solar power plants currently range from about 1,000 to 5,000 gigawatts annually, according to Buchholz.

By comparison, the new Findlay plant will have the capacity to produce components for plants that yield about 200 megawatts of that need, or about 0.02 percent of the total market. One megawatt powers about 800 homes.

"There are lots of projects going around, and the question is, 'Who is going to be first? Who is going to bring the technology to market?' " he said.

Opening the plant will not have any impact on Flabeg's existing manufacturing plant in Brackenridge, Buchholz said.

That plant, which is one of the largest employers in Brackenridge with about 198 workers, makes a different product -- mirror glass for passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

Flabeg explored sites in a number of other states, including New Mexico, California and North Carolina, said Jon Harrigan, president of Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate, a Downtown firm that assisted the Flabeg in the site selection process.

While Buchholz called the $9 million state and county incentive package, "a nice add-on" in making a final decision on a location, he said packages offered by other states were higher.

"We expect to pay in back in taxes in a pretty short term because we will be profitable very short term," he said.

Gov. Ed Rendell was on hand to announce the aid package, which includes a $1.2 million Opportunity Grant, $3 million from the state machinery and equipment loan fund, a $2 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, $1.5 million in Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Program grants, $900,000 in job creation tax credits and $400,000 in job training assistance.

Allegheny County is contributing a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant and a $100,000 job training grant from its Department of Human Services.

Flabeg tenant is the third company attracted to the 700-acre industrial park, which is located less than a mile from Pittsburgh International Airport.

Knepper Press recently began operations at a 100,000-square-foot facility that houses its printing press.

In addition, American Tire Distribution has signed a lease to occupy about 90,000 square feet in a 200,000-square-foot building there by late fall.