On Sept. 25, the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees approved the sale of six parcels of university owned land, appraised at $43,100, to Fireline Inc. for the expansion of their Youngstown operations.
Gregory Morgione, the associate general counsel for YSU, said that Fireline Inc. initially approached YSU about the purchase of these parcels.
“They came and met with some of the YSU officials and we discussed it. Fireline is a great company and has been good partner and neighbor of the university for many years. We wanted to help them and continue our good relations,” Morgione said.
The six parcels of land are located on Watt Street in the Smokey Hollow neighborhood. They sit next to Andrews Avenue, Fireline’s only manufacturing plant.
“It is really just trees and brush on those six parcels. We weren’t looking to sell them, but we really had no use for them at this time,” Morgione said. “To put them in the hands of Fireline who needs them and would help their business, it would help the university to do that.”
Fireline Inc. is a Youngstown-based manufacturer that specializes in the mass production of individual manufacturing pieces that serve as a component in the containment, movement and measurement of molten metals.
Mark Peters, the director of engineering for Fireline, said that the company is now looking into the possibility of expanding their current Smokey Hollow facility, though they have no definite plans currently. They are merely attempting to procure the necessary land, owned by both YSU and other local groups, for any future plans.
“As it currently stands, we don’t need a new facility today. But we are trying to plan for our continued existence and our growth, and to have a longer term planned,” Peters said. “We needed that land in order to option accordingly.”
Last year the company had their most successful year in their 46-year history, and they have more than doubled their sales in the past decade. However, with the economy still shaky, the company is proceeding with caution. Despite this, the company remains optimistic about the potential for the future.
“We service a particular market. We are part of the aerospace supply chain and the aerospace market. Overall, it is a good market. Right now, it is a little flat because of the economy, but you know there is expectations, particularly with China coming on board, as well as India and other growth market,” Peters said.
Along with the shift in the dynamic of the market, the company is pushing forward with new initiatives that they hope will jump-start their plans for expansion.
“We’ve been investing with new technology. I’m working on product development for new markets,” Peters said. “We won’t be able to do that within this current facility. It is designed to service our current customers.”
For Fireline, expansion has now become a question of all the pieces falling into place before they can move to expand.
“It is not a question of if, it is a question of when,” Peters said. “Now it becomes more about the technical details, in terms of how the design is going to look. Keep in mind, we have this existing facility, so we have to try to make them work together. Then the timing of it will depend on the economy and the success of growing our customer base.”
Fireline Inc. has a preexisting and mutually beneficial relationship with YSU, particularly with YSU’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program.
“We work directly with the professors. We currently have also two interns working for us,” Peters said. “We actually support the research of additional students who are working on the masters, as well as the new Ph.D program.”
Besides assisting in YSU’s student involvement, Michael Hripko, director of research and economic development at YSU’s STEM College, said that Fireline has collaborated with YSU for research and research proposals in the past, and both entities are planning for further research proposals in the future.
“It is a pretty typical industry-university relationship. You know, we have worked with them in the past; we have had some good research success with them. Based on that, it makes sense for us to continue other research funding going forward,” Hripko said.
If Fireline Inc. is to expand their operations in Smokey Hollow, it means an expansion of their personnel, which could, in turn, benefit YSU students nearing graduation.
“You know obviously with an expansion, you hope for additional employees that would be hired by Fireline. You know, they have hired YSU employees in the past,” Morgione said. “They have been, like I said, a great partner and supporter of the university. We have existing partnerships with them now with our STEM College; we obviously hope those continue and expand in the future.”
Although the land has been approved for sale by the board of trustees, Fireline has not yet purchased it. However, both YSU and Fireline Inc. are nearly certain that a deal will be made. Both entities are in the process of finalizing the specifics of the agreement.
“From what they have told me, they have made good progress with some of the other parcels that they are looking to acquire. They are very optimistic that they will be moving forward with this expansion,” Morgione said. “If for some reason they did not move forward, YSU would have some mechanism to get the property back. But as of right now, Fireline is confident that they will be moving forward with this expansion.”