RIDC takes over 3,000,000 square-foot former Volkswagen-turned-Sony TV plant
RIDC Westmoreland is an excellent example of how we approach a major project, the long-term view we take, and the overall impact it can have on an entire community.
In 1969, on over 1,200 acres adjacent to Route 119 near Interstate 70 and the New Stanton exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Chrysler built the shell of a plant but never completed the building. However, in 1976, with nearly $100 million in government assistance, highway and rail improvements, and a property-tax exemption for the nation’s first foreign-owned auto assembly plant, Volkswagen moved in and invested over $250 million into the building to manufacture its diesel-powered Rabbit. During its 12-year stay at the plant, Volkswagen produced the Rabbit, the Golf and the Jetta, but on July 14, 1988, rolled the last Volkswagen out of the plant.
In 1990, Sony began leasing the plant for its cathode ray tube manufacturing operations for television and display terminals. By the late 1990s, Sony employed more than 3,000 at the manufacturing facility. That ended when Sony closed the facility in 2010, and it was taken over by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA).
PIDA eventually turned the property over to RIDC, through a long-term lease with a purchase option. The 2.8 million square foot, 350-acre site, having previously utilized a central utility plant as a single user facility, required significant new infrastructure and a reconfiguration to become a multi-purpose, multi-tenant property. RIDC partnered with Westmoreland County, so that it would have community representation at the table. The County’s participation ensured that the vision for re-development would meet the community’s needs.
“When Sony closed their doors, it was the third time in four decades an international corporate decision impacted the county, left the site, and in turn, left many people in our community without jobs,” said Jason Rigone, Executive Director, Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation.
Today, the property has approximately 1 million square feet leased and houses over 1,000 employees. Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC)’s Advanced Technology Center is located there, occupying 73,500 square feet. Siemens also has its $32-million, state-of-the-art, 300,000-square-foot Pittsburgh Service Center on site, which is home to Siemens Turbine Generator Specialty Services. Together, Siemens and WCCC have a joint program incorporating in-classroom learning with hands-on work experience for tooling and processes used to service the power generation industry.
In 2022, in partnership with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the PA Turnpike Commission, RIDC began site planning and design for PennSTART – a state-of-the-art test track and research facility for autonomous technology companies, as well as for first responders and public entities. The PennSTART announcement is the fulfillment of one of the recommendations outlined in a joint RIDC—Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce report on how to grow autonomy industry. This project will become a regional asset that will attract companies, jobs and investment.
RIDC Westmoreland Innovation Center is also home to manufacturing companies like Intervala, DNP IMS America, City Brewery and Cenveo.
In 2022, Intervala, a custom electronics manufacturer, announced that it acquired EPE Corp., a New-Hampshire-based electronics manufacturing company, which now operates under the Intervala name. The acquisition expands Intervala’s presence in the northeast and grows its total operating space to 325,000 square feet.
Other 2022 highlights include:
RIDC hosted the PA House Transportation Committee’s public hearing in April at the Westmoreland County Community College’s Advanced Technology Center regarding legislation that would authorize Highly Automated Vehicles (HAVs) testing.
RIDC Westmoreland Innovation Center won the 2022 NAIOP Pittsburgh Award for Renovation and received $1 million in state funding that is expected to cover close to half the costs of planned infrastructure improvements.
Fluence, a global market leader in energy storage products and services launched by Siemens and AES, signed a 2-year lease for 3,500 square feet of space.
RIDC Westmoreland Innovation Center is a project that is already meeting its targets and its goals. The property is back on the tax rolls and is gradually filling up with businesses and jobs. It is once again becoming an asset for the community. But it has required collaborative thinking, partnerships with public and private entities, and a multi-faceted development plan that balanced profitability with community needs… a plan that RIDC is uniquely positioned to execute.