Plant plans major expansion

LEETONIA – A proposed expansion of Pennex Aluminum’s extrusion plant in the village is expected to nearly double the workforce at the facility.

According to a company news release issued Wednesday, the $33 million expansion will result in the creation of 65 new jobs. The facility currently employs 75.

“This expansion involves advanced technology that will provide unique capabilities to serve our customers. The Leetonia facility is state of the art, with a highly motivated and productive team of people. We are excited for our employees and the community, as the expansion will bring new jobs and opportunities,” said Pennex President Dave Riebe in a news release.

Pennex specializes in recycling industrial aluminum to create finished products and as such is one of the world’s largest companies in terms of supplying, processing and purchasing non-ferrous metals.

The Pennex facility’s 92,000 square feet will increase to 170,000 square feet when the expansion is completed later this year. The expansion will accommodate a new state-of-the-art extrusion press line and specialized fabrication production center.

“This significant investment reflects our unwavering commitment to serve our long-term customers and prospective customers,” said Pennex CEO Rick Merluzzi.

The Pennex facility on state Route 344 is located in the 120-acre Leetonia Trade Park which is operated by the Columbiana County Port Authority. Pennex purchased the property in 2010 from General Extrusions, which acquired it from the port authority in the 2000s when the company relocated from Mahoning County.

Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake was obviously pleased with the expansion, saying it represents one of the largest manufacturing expansions undertaken in the county in years as well as the creation of what he described as 65 “family wage” jobs.

“The port authority has invested approximately $5 million to build the trade park and this expansion shows that our investment is paying off,” he said.

Drake said the fact the Pennex expansion is unrelated to oil and gas development underway in the region “will help diversify Columbiana County’s economy for the long term.”

The news of the expansion first became public in early December, when Pennex received a six-year, 45 percent state tax credit. The additional jobs are expected to increase annual payroll by $2.3 million, which would translate to $35,000 more in village income tax revenue for Leetonia.

The port authority is also helping with the project by exploring whether any portions of the expansion, such as equipment constructed in other countries, would be eligible for tax reductions available through the trade park’s status as a Foreign Trade Zone.