Gruppo Fanti, Italian manufacturing company, to open Weirton, West Virginia plant

by Charles Young SENIOR STAFF WRITER, WVNEWS​, November 18, 2020

WEIRTON, W.Va. (WV News) — Gruppo Fanti, an Italian metal packaging manufacturing company, plans to open a plant in Weirton, officials announced Wednesday. 

The new plant will initially create 40 new full-time jobs and Gruppo Fanti plans to invest $30 million into the Brooke County operation, according to the office of Gov. Jim Justice.   “I love when we have firsts in West Virginia, and I’m really proud that Fanti Group has chosen to make West Virginia the home of their first manufacturing plant in America,” Justice said. “Thank you so much, from the bottom of our hearts, from all of us in West Virginia. This is so meaningful to our state. We want you to make this your home in the United States and we want to be able to grow with you and help you in every way we possibly can.”

The company is modifying an existing site in Weirton and plans to start production in quarter of 2022.  Fanti Group is an Italian industrial group, founded in 1948, specializing in packaging, owned by the Fanti family. The group has an aggregate revenue of 120 million euro, operates several plants in Italy along with several production and commercial entities in Europe, Russia, and Africa that manufacture more than 100 million metal cans every year.

“My father Giorgio Fanti, founder of Fanti Group, visited this area in the United States for the first time in the 70’s to see how U.S. manufacturers worked and to see if it was possible to buy some steel,” said Stefano Fanti, chairman of Fanti Packaging.

“I was a kid at that time, but I still remember when he left home ‘per l’America’ and when he returned to Italy after a long business trip bringing lots of ‘strange’ presents and toys," Fanti said.

 

"Now, after 50 years, I am glad to achieve my father’s American dream by starting a production plant in the United States. Our U.S. entity will be established in Weirton, West Virginia, and it will be legally owned by our main company located in Bologna, Italy, that has the name of my father," Fanti said.

West Virginia was one of three states in consideration for the company’s expansion into the United States.

“Fanti USA will be the largest expansion in the history of the Fanti Group,” said Nicola De Santis, CFO, M&A, Business Development, Board Member of Fanti Group. “In West Virginia, we found the right place to expand. We studied the market, the supply chain, and the potential locations intensively. We traveled extensively before the COVID limitations and met a lot of people across the United States. Here in West Virginia we plan to initially create 20 jobs and to grow to 40-50 jobs after 3-4 years. One of the main reasons we have chosen West Virginia is because of the great support from the Governor’s Office and the West Virginia Development Office. Their great assistance to develop our project made our decision easy.”

Gruppo Fanti’s leadership team visited West Virginia in early 2019 as part of their due diligence in finding their U.S. expansion site.

“While we competed with Pennsylvania and Ohio for this new plant, our state’s pro-business climate, made possible by the business experience and incredible leadership of Governor Justice, along with our manufacturing base and an incredible workforce helped us prevail in the end,” said West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch.

Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, said Weirton has a long history with manufacturing.  “The loss of Weirton Steel was obviously a huge blow to the area. But since then, Weirton has been adding bricks to the wall of Weirton’s comeback and Weirton’s future: Pietro Fiorentini, Bidell, and now Fanti Group," he said. “I’d like to think everybody’s leadership for coming together and putting this new brick in place.”

Wednesday's announcement was the most recent in series of economic development projects unveiled by state officials over the past few months. 

On Monday, officials said Klöckner Pentaplast, a global manufacturer and supplier of sustainable packaging products, had chosen its production facility in Beaver for its production expansion, adding thermoforming capabilities to further grow their sustainable food tray offer for the North America market.

West Virginia selected for Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center site

by Charles Young SENIOR STAFF WRITER,  WV News

 Oct 19, 2020

CHARLESTON — West Virginia has been selected as the location of the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center following a nationwide search.

The facility, planned for an 800-acre tract that straddles Grant and Tucker counties, is expected to bring thousands of construction jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact to the Mountain State.

“West Virginia is well-positioned to provide a fully integrated solution that advances the nationwide opportunity for hyperloop,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “The engineering and scientific talent, combined with the skilled workforce and collaborative spirit we know is critical to this project, is all right here.”

“Today is one of the most exciting days in Virgin Hyperloop’s history,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. “The Hyperloop Certification Center is the start of the hyperloop journey for West Virginia, for the United States and for the world. We’re one step closer to making hyperloop travel a reality for people everywhere.”

Hyperloop is an emerging mode of high-speed transportation that involves moving people and goods in pods through a vacuum tube, using magnetic and electronic propulsion technology to reach travel speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour.

The concept that has become hyperloop dates back to the early 20th century.

In 1909, rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard proposed a vacuum train very similar to the Hyperloop, and in 1972, the RAND Corporation conceived a supersonic underground railway called the Vactrain.

Tesla Inc. and SpaceX founder Elon Musk reintroduced the idea in 2013 with the publication of his “Hyperloop Alpha” white paper, and Virgin Hyperloop One was founded a year later.  Walder noted the Hyperloop Certification Center’s role is a critical, necessary next step in taking proven technology and demonstrating to regulators and certifiers that it works and is safe for passengers.

Work on the HCC is expected to begin in 2021 with a planned Welcome Center; Certification Track and Operations Center; Pod Final Assembly Facility; Production Development Test Center; and Operations, Maintenance and Safety Training Center.   With this development, the HCC will pave the way for an entirely new ecosystem, creating thousands of new jobs across the construction, manufacturing, operations and high-tech sectors — many of which Virgin Hyperloop plans to source locally.

WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research predicts the total economic impact of the center’s ongoing operation on the West Virginia economy to be $48 million annually.  “Today is a fantastic day for the state of West Virginia, and I’d like to be the first to officially welcome the folks from Virgin Hyperloop to their new home,” Gov. Jim Justice said during Thursday’s announcement. “For years, I have been saying that West Virginia is the best-kept secret on the East Coast, and it’s true. Just look at this announcement and all it will bring to our state — investment, jobs and tremendous growth.

“It’s a true honor and privilege to be selected as the site for the Hyperloop Certification Center and lead the nation in this next step forward for transportation.

The land, owned by Western Pocahontas Properties and located near Mount Storm, is being donated to the WVU Foundation in partnership with Virgin Hyperloop.

“As part of this process, Western Pocahontas Properties employed some of the world’s best environmental planners, including SWCA Environmental Consultants, Planned Environments Inc. and others, to ensure this new development would complement the area’s uniqueness and beauty,” said Corby Robertson, owner of Western Pocahontas Properties. “This thorough planning and commitment to our community and environment make this site very attractive to Virgin Hyperloop because they share our values for sustainable growth.”

The anticipated reach of HCC extends far beyond the state’s borders.  “I am committed to building a consortium of universities from around the country which will lend their expertise to further develop the vision of hyperloop,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “We will also create educational and institutional opportunities for students, faculty and staff to be a part of this program. There is no greater learning lab than what we will build here in West Virginia.”

Marshall University has worked closely with WVU and others throughout the process.  “Higher education institutions are hubs for research, innovation and talent,” Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert said. “Colleges and universities help build and strengthen our communities, and in this partnership with Virgin Hyperloop, the awesome opportunity to build the communities of the future is now at our doorstep.”

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, issued a statement congratulating West Virginia and its residents for the global distinction of being selected as the new worldwide location for the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center.  “Today’s announcement by Virgin Hyperloop demonstrates the newly found appeal of West Virginia for job creators in the high-tech industry and other fields to make a significant commitment and investment in our state. I am incredibly grateful to Virgin Hyperloop for the faith that they are putting into West Virginia with this project,” Carmichael said. “I look forward to seeing this project develop and bring with it good, high-paying jobs for years to come.”

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, also issued a statement praising the decision.  “This is truly a great day for West Virginia,” Hanshaw said. “Virgin Hyperloop’s decision is a tremendous honor for our state and affirmation that the sound leadership, responsible reforms and collaborative teamwork we have put in place at all levels of government have been recognized by business innovators across the globe.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., participated in the Hyperloop announcement from the West Virginia Capitol.  “Nearly a year ago, I wrote to Sir Richard Branson, highlighting the benefits of doing business in West Virginia and urging him to pick the Mountain State for the newest Virgin Hyperloop venture. Today, we celebrate the beginning of a new partnership between West Virginia and Virgin Hyperloop that will last for decades to come,” Manchin said. “Virgin Hyperloop’s decision to make West Virginia the home of their Certification Center is a testament to our people and proves that when West Virginia competes, we win. West Virginia continues to grow in the technology, manufacturing and innovation sectors, and I look forward to witnessing the benefits of this progress as we advance the future of travel right here in our great state of West Virginia.”

“Over the last several years, West Virginia’s economy has begun to diversify into new sectors,” Capito said. “The announcement that Virgin Hyperloop’s Certification Center and test track will be located right here in our state will help us continue this growth in the knowledge-based economy. I’m glad that Virgin Hyperloop views West Virginia as a state on the edge of the tech economy. With our educational institutions, research and development opportunities, skilled workforce, low cost of living and high quality of life, West Virginia is the ideal selection.

“I’ve been a consistent advocate for this project and am thrilled we’ve been selected as the site. Not only does this announcement prove that West Virginia is moving forward, but it also shows that we have what it takes to draw in more technology jobs that will support the future of transportation. This is a tremendous day for all of West Virginia, but particularly Tucker and Grant counties.”

Other members of the state’s congressional delegation also expressed their support and excitement for this opportunity.  “The Hyperloop Certification Center will put West Virginia on the map as a hub of innovation. The project will help further diversify our economy, attract jobs and investment, and shine a spotlight on what makes our state great,” Congressman David McKinley said.

“There is no better place than West Virginia for high-tech, innovative transportation solutions. The Hyperloop Certification Center will create thousands of new jobs in the region, and American-made technology will be produced right here in the Mountain State,” Congressman Alex Mooney said.  

“I am excited to welcome Virgin Hyperloop to West Virginia. This partnership will create modern jobs, establish our state as a hub for innovation and unlock new opportunities in the 21st-century economy. Working together, we will develop cutting-edge American transportation technology that we will export throughout the world,” Congresswoman Carol Miller said.

Senior Staff Writer Charles Young can be reached at 304-626-1447 or cyoung@theet.com

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