By Keith Gushard
VERNON TOWNSHIP — A more than $13 million expansion project at Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc. will add 60 new jobs during the next three years.
Acutec has committed to investing at least $10.7 million, creating 60 new jobs during the next three years while retaining 450 current employees, Gov. Tom Wolf said in announcing a state grant and tax credits for Acutec on Tuesday. Acutec makes components and subassemblies for aerospace and space industries companies.
Acutec is getting a $250,000 Pennsylvania First grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development plus another $120,000 in job creation tax credits to be distributed as the new jobs are created, according to Wolf.
Among the projects a Pennsylvania First grant may be used toward includemachinery/equipment, job training, infrastructure, land and building improvements, acquisition of land, buildings, rights-of-way, working capital and site preparation.
Acutec plans to add 44 percent more space at the Crawford Business Park in Vernon Township when construction and renovations are done by the end of 2018.
Acutec currently occupies 188,735 square feet at the business park but will add 70,000 square feet of new manufacturing space plus build 13,000 square feet for raw material storage and its saw department.
In May, the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority approved a $2,248,000 loan through the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County to do renovations at the Crawford Business Park in Vernon Township to add the 70,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
The company’s financial commitment of $10.7 million plus the state loan, the state grant and tax credits puts the total project at $13.3 million.
Growth in the aerospace industry — including the development of both the Boeing 737MAX and Airbus A320NEO airplanes — is what’s been causing Acutec to take off, according to Elisabeth Smith, the company’s president and chief executive officer.
“As the international aerospace industry, including commercial, defense and space, continues growing, this proves to be the ideal opportunity for expanding the capacity of our Meadville facility,” Smith said.
Acutec’s saw and material handling department will be moved into the new space while its stock room and packaging will be shifted from the shop floor to increase manufacturing space. Relocating the saw and material handling department will allow the firm to handle up 20-foot long sections of specialized aerospace metals compared to just 12-foot lengths now. The department relocation will give the firm use of two large cranes — one capable of lifting 27 tons and another capable of lifting 20 tons. Acutec currently has a 2-ton capacity crane. It also will permit the firm to unload materials directly off trucks inside the building.
“It’s going to greatly increase efficiency,” said Rob Smith, who is executive chairman of Acutec Precision Aerospace and Elisabeth’s father.
“We’ll use the new manufacturing space for existing customers, but we’ll use it to sell to new customers,” Elisabeth Smith said of the new capacity. “It’s kind of ‘build it and they will come.’” “It’s a big selling point to have space available for new (manufacturing) programs,” Rob Smith said.
Construction is being done in three phases with the initial phase completed in May when 5,000 square feet was renovated for a new classroom, information technology department, a conference room, and a piston assembly area.
The second and third phases — the 13,000-squarefoot building for raw material storage and the saw department and more than 70,000 square feet of renovations for additional manufacturing — will be done at the same time. Both of those projects are expected to be done by year-end.
In making the announcement about Acutec’s grant and tax credits, Wolf called the company’s expansion great news for the firm, for workers in the area and for Pennsylvania.
“The decision by a hightech manufacturer like Acutec Precision Aerospace to grow its workforce here in Pennsylvania shows that the industry recognizes the quality of our workers,” Wolf said. “Acutec has a decades-long history in Crawford County, and I applaud their decision to stay here and grow in the years ahead.”
Jim Becker, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County which owns and operates the Crawford Business Park, called Acutec an impressive company.
“This expansion by Acutec represents a long-term investment in the Crawford County area that will boost both our local and regional economies for many years to come,” Becker said. “We applaud the governor, Governor’s Action Team and the Department of Community and Economic Development for their efforts to support this project and thank Acutec for their commitment to Crawford County.”
Elisabeth Smith said it’s Acutec’s employees — past and present — who have made the firm what it is.
“For 30 years we have been based in Crawford County, and we are thankful for the dedicated workforce in this area that has made this possible,” she said.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune. com.