It is ironic in today’s modern industrial world that a steel company is actually helping to revive an entire region previously ravaged by unemployment and economic decay. But that is exactly what is happening in Columbus, Ohio, after International Technical Coatings (ITC), a manufacturer of wire mesh products based in Phoenix, decided to expand its operations eastward.
From a business perspective, it was deemed a logical decision since ITC was growing fast, producing 25,000 tons of steel wire mesh per year from its Arizona plant. With increasing demand from the material handling, storage products and architectural fencing industries, it quickly became clear that the firm needed to make its products and services more accessible to a broadening customer base in the east.
Once the decision was made to expand, the question then became: where?
Several locations were considered, including Pittsburgh, the former steel capital of the world, and major industrial areas such as Indianapolis, Frankfurt, Ky., and cities in Michigan. The search ended when Columbus, Ohio, made an offer ITC couldn’t refuse.
In addition to its close proximity to any major east coast city, Columbus and the State of Ohio provided economic incentives for ITC to purchase a 667,000-foot factory in the heart of the city which had become an industrial wasteland.
From a civic perspective, the ITC expansion is seen as a shining ray of hope for the entire Central Ohio region, and especially downtown Columbus where unemployment had exceeded 9 percent. According to one city official, ITC’s commitment to the community achieves two significant objectives – “bringing jobs to the state and putting a large inner-city industrial block back into service.”
“With the economic downturn dragging opportunity away in most industries, ITC knew taking the risk and investing in this new location was not just a good move for the company, it would also energize the part of the city that had been struggling,” said Frank Gole, the company’s CEO. “We worked with local city and state officials to find a perfect location to handle our annual demand, which also would be a good location of renovation and modernization.”
Adding to the Columbus site’s benefits for ITC were more than $1 million in city-sponsored grants, tax credits and other financial incentives. But there remained one important issue that need to be addressed: restoring rail access to the plant.
In its efforts to lure ITC to Columbus, city officials and Norfolk Southern Railroad chipped in more than $600,000 to rebuild the rail spur to mainline tracks. How important is rail access? As a Norfolk Southern spokesperson put it, “a railroad car load, depending on what it is hauling, can be two to three truckloads. That’s a lot of truck traffic that won’t be on local streets.”
Once the relocation details were finalized, ITC went to work, investing more than $7 million in renovations, process flow and modernization, including the installation of much needed infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment to ramp up production. An added bonus to the new site was a dedicated sub-station on the property for up to 35,000 amps of electric power.
In less than six months after ITC moved into the facility, its first products were shipped using one shift. In just two years, the plant was running at full capacity with three shifts of more than 100 employees. Today, it is producing 20,000 tons of products annually and shipping to its continually growing customer base throughout the country. It is matching the Phoenix plant output while 60 percent of the building is available for further production demand.
“ITC continues to be proud of our work on opening our Columbus facility,” said Gole. “We have expanded the company’s market reach significantly while providing plentiful jobs for the local economy. This success demonstrates not just our commitment to our customers, but to our employees and other stakeholders as we look to the future to see what is next.”
Meanwhile, Columbus, the state capital and home to Ohio State University, continues to experience an economic recovery which has propelled it to be the 14th largest city in the United States and third largest state capital. With ITC contributing to its resurgence, it has been named by Money Magazine as among the “6 Best Big Cities” for its “highly educated workforce and excellent wage growth.”
And Forbes Magazine bestowed two honors on Columbus — an “A” rating as one of the top cities for business in the U.S. and as the top up-and-coming tech cities in the nation.
When negotiations were finally completed with the company and the city, and after a lengthy but careful search for the ideal expansion location, Gole declared: “We found the perfect fit.”