Italian firm coming to Half Moon Industrial Park in Weirton
WEIRTON — Gov. Jim Justice Wednesday announced an international manufacturer of metal and plastic containers will open its first U.S. plant at the Half Moon Industrial Park, investing $30 million in an unused facility there and creating at least 40 jobs.
“This is nothing but a giant team effort,” said Justice as he introduced leaders of the Bologna, Italy-based Gruppo Fanti, also known as the Fanti Group, and recognized state and local officials involved in bringing the company to the city.
Among them were the West Virginia Development Office, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle and state Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Wellsburg.
Justice said the 75-year-old company each year produces 100 million metal cans, among other products, through operations in Italy, Eastern Europe and Africa, and chose West Virginia from three potential states for its first U.S. facility.
Marvin Six, the BDC’s executive director, said Gruppo Fanti has agreed to purchase from the economic development group the former Signode building, which has been vacant for about four years.
Six said the former plant has been visited by potential architects for improvements eyed by Gruppo Fanti, including a new roof and interior renovations needed to accommodate its operations while leaders of the company have communicated with nearby steel firms that can supply it with materials.
He said representatives of Gruppo Fanti visited the site about a year and a half ago. Since the pandemic, contact between them and the BDC was largely through the internet.
“It was a unique approach to marketing our property,” said Six, who added live video contact and other means were used to keep talks going.
On Wednesday, video conferencing allowed Justice to introduce two leaders of Gruppo Fanti.
Stefano Fanti, chairman of Fanti Packaging, told of the company’s modest beginnings under the leadership of his father, Giorgio.
Fanti said American soldiers liberating Italy from fascist and Nazi rule during World War II distributed cans of food to Italian citizens like his father, who got the idea to recycle the many empty cans.
Gruppo Fanti’s website relates that Giorgio Fanti’s efforts grew from a small business operated from his garage to the acquisition in 1963 of an automatic machine used to assemble tinplate cans to the present production of millions of metal and plastic containers for products ranging from chemicals to processed foods.
Nicola DeSantis, chief financial officer of Gruppo Fanti, said the company hopes to begin production in America in 2022, employing about 20 initially and later, 40 to 50.
DeSantis said he and others found the West Virginia Development Office to be very supportive.
“This was probably the main element for choosing your state as the place to be,” he said.
Ed Gaunch, state secretary of commerce, said he believes West Virginia was chosen for its “pro-business climate” and “incredible workforce.”
“It’s great news for Weirton, the Northern Panhandle and the state of West Virginia,” said Gaunch.
Weld said manufacturing has played a key role in Weirton’s history and following the arrival of international manufacturers such as Pietro Fiorentino and Bidell Gas Compression, the addition of Gruppo Fanti “adds another piece to the puzzle in making Weirton’s future clear.”
Weirton Mayor Harold Miller said of the news, “I think that’s great.”
Miller also pointed to other international companies that have located to the community as well as ongoing development efforts by the Frontier Group of Companies he said has helped to raise Weirton’s profile around the world.
“I think that really helps us get traction,” he said.
Six agreed, saying, “This is not only an economic boost for the area but also an emotional boost. It shows international companies have an interest in our area.”
He said the BDC will continue to market former industrial sites and other available properties to companies new to the region.
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com. Managing Editor Craig Howell contributed to this story.)