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Chamber details failed pitch to Truck-Lite

An attempt by local economic officials to bring Truck-Lite’s headquarters to Warren County ultimately proved unsuccessful.

But that doesn’t mean the pitch wasn’t strong, or the effort was all for naught.

Truck-Lite was courting three locations – Warren County, Chautauqua County, NY, and Knowledge Park in Erie County. The Erie County location was ultimately the company’s choice.

The site proposed had been just south of the Pine Grove surgical center that were partially developed — roads, sidewalks, sewers — by a Warren General Hospital senior living project that was thwarted in large measure by the 2008 recession.

That property returns to the market, according to WCCBI President/CEO Jim Decker.

Decker provided a letter to the Times Observer that outlined the scope of the initiative which dates to January 2020.

That letter is published here in its entirety.

“In the June 4 edition of the Times Observer, it was reported that officials of Truck-Lite have selected a location in Erie County over the site that was proposed to them here in Warren County. We felt it important to provide the community with more information on what transpired regarding this opportunity over the past 14 months.

The Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI) initially contacted Truck-Lite in January 2020 following their announcement that they would be closing the manufacturing portion of their operation in Falconer, NY by the end of the year. This initial contact was made to provide the individuals impacted by this closure with information regarding the job opportunities which existed in Warren County.

Soon after the announcement of the production facility closure our conversations focused on the potential to relocate the administrative personnel from Falconer to a facility here in Warren County. The requirements of this facility were evaluated against existing facilities throughout Warren County with the conclusion that no existing facility was available that was suitable for their operations.

The focus then shifted to properties that would include a new facility specifically designed to meet the needs of Truck-Lite.

Based on the accessibility requirement, it was determined that the property immediately south of the Pine Grove Ambulatory Surgical Center on Route 62 in Pine Grove Township provided an excellent location for this project. The property was presented to Truck-Lite who agreed that it was an appropriate, acceptable and an attractive site. The WCCBI focused significant energy and effort in negotiating an option to purchase this property and in designing a facility. The WCCBI engaged Larson-Karly architects, Kessel Construction, and several other firms to develop the facility design and projected costs associated with site preparation and construction.

This work revealed that the facility would cost roughly $5 million to complete. The WCCBI reached out to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and obtained approval of a $1.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital program grant which would be facilitated through the Northwest Regional Planning Commission.

Recognizing the positive impact this business would have on the community, the Pine Grove Township Supervisors took two significant actions to assist in the recruitment efforts. First, they adopted a Local Economic Revitalization Abatement ordinance that would provide an abatement of the property taxes on the new facility for a period of five years following construction. This ordinance mirrored similar commitments previously made county-wide by Warren County and the Warren County School District. Second, the Supervisors committed a contribution of $100,000 to assist with the direct construction costs of the project.

The remaining funds needed to complete the project were to be obtained through a commercial mortgage to be taken on the property which would be held by the Warren County Development Association, the WCCBI’s non-profit development corporation. Based upon the RACP funding to be utilized this mortgage would be required to carry a 20 year term which would serve as the basis for a similar term Lease Agreement with Truck-Lite.

Throughout the development of our proposal, we were aware that Truck-Lite was also in negotiations with Chautauqua and Erie counties as potential relocation sites.

Ultimately Truck-Lite selected an existing facility in Knowledge Park in Erie County adjacent to the Penn State Behrend campus. A significant benefit available only at this location was the direct engagement and access to the Penn State engineering staff, a student pool and access to the engineering lab facilities supporting their product development and testing needs.

It was mentioned by Truck-Lite that a package of demographic data focused on the state of the local workforce and population trends would have been helpful in their evaluation. They secured this information for all three sites being considered through a third-party vendor. We will be working with the City and County to develop this package for future negotiations.

While the outcome of our efforts to bring Truck-Lite to Warren County was terribly disappointing, the collaboration and cooperation across numerous fronts in developing a very compelling and competitive proposal is encouraging. In total, over $1.7 million in direct financial incentives were presented and the WCCBI was fully prepared to take on substantial debt to seize this opportunity to bring a new employer to our community.

Economic development is an ongoing and ever-changing effort. Business needs are unique and change based upon industry sector, economic conditions and individual business entity situations. The WCCBI will continue to seek out opportunities such as Truck-Lite and will continue to structure proposal which stretch all available resources to their limits.”

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