Moran Industries and Montgomery, Pa. Welcome Canadian Gas Companies Peak and New Alta
MONTGOMERY – The Old Mill manufacturing corridor in the Borough of Montgomery once was a bustling textile manufacturing center that employed thousands of people.
For nearly 30 years the complex has stood nearly empty and has been an eyesore and embarrassment to the community.
Thanks to Watsontown-based Moran Industries, that property is being returned to its former glory, with the Marcellus Shale at the center of its rebirth.
The company recently bought 10 acres of mill property, which runs just south of Route 405 in the borough. Two Canadian gas industry support companies plan to locate operations there by early next spring.
On Friday, with crews already hard at work demolishing old buildings on the property, borough, county and state officials assembled for a groundbreaking ceremony.
For John D. Moran Jr., buying the Old Mill property was something of a homecoming for him. In early 1980, his father John D. “Jack” Moran Sr. was looking to expand his small, family-owned warehousing company and bought the facility, which had shut down due to foreign competition that crippled American manufacturing.
Jack Moran breathed new life into the property and in 1982 sold it to an artificial Christmas tree company. Before long, the unfavorable manufacturing climate forced that company out of business, too, Moran said.
“Thus began a 25-year story of decay and decline, not only for the plant, but the surrounding area,” Moran said. “Today is a new day and a new beginning for the site and the town of Montgomery.”
Moran thanked his wife and children for their support and also John Brindger of ReMax Commercial, calling him “the glue” that helped seal the deal with the individual from whom he bought the property.
Moran said the region is seeing an economic “revolution” fueled by natural gas. He called the Marcellus Shale industry “a new path to prosperity.”
The area already has taken a step down that path, said State Sen. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township.
Unemployment in Lycoming County is significantly lower than state and national levels and gas industry companies have pledged to hire more local workers, Yaw said.
Yaw said the development “shows what government and private industry can do if they get on the right page.”
“This is just the beginning,” Yaw said. “We just have to be cooperative and willing to handle small changes in our communities.”
Moran Vice President of Operations Jeffery J. Stroehmann the revitalization of the property is result of a “recipe for success” that included the Moran family’s dedication to revitalizing their community, the willingness of industry companies to locate to the area, cooperation by state, county and municipal officials, the availability of rail services, a proactive Chamber of Commerce and community willing to embrace change.
A key to the development of the property was the county’s Brownfield Assessment program, which identified underused or abandoned industrial sites and evaluated their redevelopment potential. The program identified the Old Mill corridor as a property ripe for development.
State Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Denise Brinley said because of the program, Lycoming County is “so far ahead of the curve” in its redevelopment efforts.
Representatives of the tenant companies – Peak Energy and Newalta – were on hand for the event.
Trevor Hushagen of Peak Energy said his company will be located on the south end of the complex and will be home to administrative offices and maintenance bays for gas drilling equipment it leases to gas exploration companies.
The company has offices in Williamsport and has hired 65 people, most of them from the area, Hushagen said.
John Marty III of Newalta said his company provides on-site waste management services and has about 150 workers throughout the state’s Marcellus Shale region.
Montgomery Borough Council President Lynn Crist said the revitalization of the property “is the fullfilling of Montgomery’s hopes and prayers.”
For decades people have driven by the mill site and seen it as a sad symbol of lost prosperity, Crist said.
“They can now look down and say, ‘Look what’s happening, now,’” Crist said proudly. “Today, we can say it’s really happening,” he said. “Let’s get ‘er done.”
Borough Mayor Andrew Onufrak jokingly asked if the sound of the heavy equipment operating in the background could be turned down during the ceremony, but added, “I love it.”
Moran surprised those in attendance by presenting Onufrak with the key to a historic office building on the property. He donated the structure and surrounding property to the borough to be used as a library and conference center in honor of his mother and father.
“Mom and dad spent a lot of time here,” Moran said.
Such a facility was suggested by local students involved in the Youth Ambassador Program. The program encouraged the students to provide input for a corridor plan administered by the county Department of Planning and Community Development.
County Commissioner Rebecca A. Burke said the students have a lot of reasons to be proud.
“I would like to thank them for their innovative ideas and tell them to keep involved in this project, as there is a lot more to come in Montgomery,” Burke said.
Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Vincent Matteo said no matter what government does to fuel economic development, nothing compares to the entrepreneurial spirit of people like John Moran “who are willing to invest in their business and community.
“John is following in his parent’s footsteps and investing in this community,” Matteo said.