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Pennex cuts ribbon on expanded facility

Morning Journal/Kevin Howell Pennex Aluminum held an expansion grand opening and 40th anniversary celebration Friday morning. Cutting the ribbon, from left, Pennex employee Todd Kollar, Pennex General Manager Chuck Stout, Pennex President Mark Mantooth, Metal Exchange CEO Rick Merluzzi, Metal Exchange Executive Chairman Michael Lefton, state Sen. Michael Rulli, Leetonia Schools Superintendent Rob Mehno, state Rep. Tim Ginter and Pennex employee Henry Bertolini.

LEETONIA — The Pennex Aluminum Co. marked 40 years in business with a grand opening of an expansion at its Leetonia location.

Federal, state, county and local government officials joined customers and business associates at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $25 million 110,000-square-foot expansion for precision engineering projects such as products for the automotive industry and other technical applications. The expansion is expected to create 50 new jobs at the facility.

Located in the Leetonia industrial park, the facility opened in 2010 after starting as a one-press operation in Wellsville in 1979.

During the ceremony, Pennex received a proclamation from the Ohio Senate celebrating company’s 40 years in business, commendation from the Ohio House of Representatives lauding the company for investing in the community and the state and recognition from the Ohio School Boards Association in honor of the company’s mentoring program and other partnerships with Leetonia schools.

State Sen. Michael Rulli, who lives in Leetonia, noted the important role Pennex plays in the community.

“This is personal for me because I live one mile down the street,” Rulli said. “We love Leetonia and the founding block of Leetonia is Pennex. [Officials] are allowing things to grow in Leetonia and Pennex is the pride of that growth.”

State Rep. Tim Ginter is a resident of Salem. He said the company will never realize the impact it has on this heavily rural area.

“[Pennex] is supplying good jobs with good benefits and that’s something desperately needed today,” he said.

In addition to providing job growth, Pennex has established a relationship with the Leetonia school district that is impacting the lives of students on a daily basis, according to schools Superintendent Rob Mehno, who came to the schools in 2009 and has worked with the company ever since to create opportunities for area youth.

“Pennex is the biggest thing in the area since the coal mines at the turn of the 20th century,” he said.

“The relationships with Pennex contribute to Leetonia’s small town atmosphere, and that family atmosphere is genuine.

“We appreciate everything (the district gains) from working with [Pennex]…but we cherish the friendships and that’s what’s important.”

In response to the accolades voiced by the local officials, leaders of Pennex and its parent company, Metal Exchange Corp., promised continued expansion and job growth.

“We’re on the cusp of another industrial revolution as the automotive industry moves toward light weight,” said Pennex President Mark Mantooth, noting the company is not ready to stop its growth. “You start with an idea, assess what we have, envision what it will be. But the exciting part is when you turn it on and see it contribute to the next expansion.”

And expansion seems imminent according to Metal Exchange Corporation Executive Chairman Michael Lefton.

“When looking at expansion, you have to ask whether the people presenting the project can get it done,” he said. “Well, the Pennex team has a tremendous track record and gets things done. We have confidence that they will deliver and encourage more growth, more buildings, more jobs.”

When looking at where the company was when it came to Leetonia, on verge of bankruptcy, it seems impossible the importance it now plays in the area.

“I see where we were in 2009 and where we are today…what I see is people, what I see is the incredible, incredible hard work in bringing Pennex back from near extinction,” said Metal Exchange Corporation CEO Rick Merluzzi.

And yet, Merluzzi said the company looks beyond its bottom line, noting the first half of the company’s state goal is “Impacting Our World.”

“[The goal] has nothing to do with metal,” he said. “You can’t be successful unless customers are successful. We want to be successful, but we can always do more.”

khowell@salemnews.net

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