Fiorentini will go ahead on Weirton plant plan

WHEELING – The Pietro Fiorentini Group of Vicenza, Italy – a maker of valves, meters and components for the oil and gas industry – announced Thursday it will build its first American manufacturing plant near the heart of the energy industry in Weirton.

Since March 2013, Pietro Fiorentini has operated a production unit in a shared building on Peninsula Street in Wheeling near the Wheeling Industrial Park, and the company has about 15 employees at the location, according to Chief Executive Officer Mario Nardi. He expects the proposed plant, to be located in the Three Springs Drive Industrial Park in Weirton, could be constructed in the next two years, and will have as many as 50 employees when fully operational. Nardi said the total cost of the company’s investment has yet to be determined.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was among those present as Nardi addressed a gathering of political and business leaders at the company’s Wheeling location. Nardi explained why Pietro Fiorentini chose the state as the place to build its first manufacturing plant in America. The company – founded in 1938 – has seven factories in Italy, two others in Europe, three in China, the production unit in Wheeling and 20 regional centers throughout the world.

Texas and Georgia actively recruited Pietro Fiorentini to build their American manufacturing plant there, as did North Carolina and New York. But in the end, the company opted to locate near the larger Marcellus and Utica shale sites in West Virginia and Ohio.

The company also considered how close proposed sites were to highways, airports and areas with strong engineering and technical schools, according to Nardi.

“We applied the metrics to make our decision, and the best scoring was for West Virginia,” he said. “We had different competitors, but you were it. That’s very important. … We need to invest in the local know-how and people. This will be a big opportunity for us, and for all the people involved. We are here for a long-term commitment, and we want to make the best decision.”

Nardi said employees from his company have been traveling back and forth between Vicenza and Wheeling to begin the establishment of manufacturing operations in America. In the coming months, the company will seek to develop its workforce and find quality engineers from American universities to join them.

“(The workers) will be visiting our factories in Italy so as to understand our culture and know-how,” he said. “We will be joining the best of Italian culture and know-how with the best of American culture and know-how. We will take the best from both.”

Tomblin said he traveled to Italy in October to meet with Pietro Fiorentini officials as the state seeks to capitalize on its energy reserves.

“As this industry continues to grow, new jobs will be created,” he said. “Our manufacturing segment will be revitalized. In four years, we will require an additional 20,000 college graduates in West Virginia, and that’s just to maintain the economy we have.”

Don Rigby, executive director of the Regional Economic Development Partnership in Wheeling, said Pietro Fiorentini is one of six Italian companies working with his office that have chosen to locate to the Ohio Valley.

“I think if you take a hard look at us, the Northern Panhandle will come out on top,” he said.