Pennex Aluminum expanding in Leetonia

LEETONIA – The Pennex Aluminum Co. expansion in Leetonia will be aided in part by the sale of additional land to be used for parking.

The Pennex plant is located in the Columbiana County Port Authority’s Leetonia Trade Park, and recently the port authority board agreed to sell an additional 2.8 acres to Pennex for $85,400.

Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake said the property will be used by Pennex to add more parking it expects will be needed as a result of the $33 million planned expansion announced last week. The expansion includes a new aluminum extrusion press line and specialized fabrication production center.

The expansion will nearly triple the size of the Pennex facility, from 92,000 square feet to 270,000 square feet, and increase the size of the work force from 65 to 140 employees.

Drake said Pennex has enough property at the port authority park to expand to 400,000 square feet if necessary.

“This is high-tech manufacturing” that is unrelated to the oil and gas boom under way in the region, he said.

In other action, Fiscal Officer Penny Traina reported they ended 2013 with an $185,000 balance based on $4.1 million in expenditures, which she said is misleading because it is inflated by including $1.3 million in depreciation and pass-through expenses, such as federal or state grants received and spent for a specific purpose.

She and Diane Ksiazek, the financial and administrative manager, are working with the accounting firm used by the port authority to revise how the books are kept to produce a more realistic overview of port authority finances.

“Currently we use an accrual accounting system. I would like it to be a cash-based accounting system that gives us a true operating cash picture,” Traina said.

The year-end balance is $52,000 higher than 2012, which Traina and Drake attributed mostly to cutting expenses.

Finally, Drake provided the news media with copies of a draft letter he will send to Gov. John Kasich encouraging him to include the U.S. Route 30 project as part of the state Access Ohio 2040 plan.

Drake said the expansion of the county’s section of Route 30 into a four-lane freeway is needed now more than ever because of the oil and gas development under way in Eastern Ohio.

“The Port Authority believes that a major investment to construct the extension of U.S. Route 30 east toward Pittsburgh, as a modern divided highway, is essential for creating a safe and efficient highway system that will help connect Stark, Carroll and Columbiana counties in Ohio to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. It will also allow Ohio and Pennsylvania to generate more opportunities to attract new companies that will be seeking new locations related to oil and gas exploration activities in both states,” he wrote.

Drake already asked state Rep. Nick Barborak, D-Lisbon, to ask for funding in the next state capital budget to cover the cost of updating the Route 30 feasibility study.

The port authority’s next meeting is 5 p.m. Feb. 24.