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Undersea warfare manufacturer expands in southwest Pennsylvania

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In this Friday, March 19, 2021 photo, released by the U.S. Navy, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, U.S. guided-missile cruiser Port Royal and the US amphibious assault ship Makin Island, Belgian frigate Leopold the 1st, the Japanese destroyer Ariake, and the French frigate Provence, take part in the Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise in Arabian Sea. The U.S. Navy said Sunday it will hold a major naval exercise alongside Belgium, France and Japan in the Mideast amid tensions over Iran’s nuclear program in the region. (US Navy via AP) AP

Undersea warfare manufacturer expands in southwest Pennsylvania

June 18, 03:00 PM June 18, 03:00 PM

An undersea warfare manufacturer in Fayette County will expand its operations, Pennsylvania officials said Thursday.

Advanced Acoustic Concepts, maker of sensors, weapons and trainers for underwater use for clients such as the U.S. Navy, will hire 36 new full-time workers as it grows its Lemont Furnace campus by more than 30,000 square feet. It’s also one of the county’s top 50 employers with 120 existing positions, according to state data.

The $1.2 million project, selected by Gov. Tom Wolf’s Action Team, will use state grants and special financing through the Department of Community and Economic Development to complete construction and workforce training.

Wolf said he was “thrilled to support” the company’s continued growth after 20 years in Fayette County.

“This project allows to Advanced Acoustic Concepts to keep up with an increased product demand and brings new, good-paying job opportunities to the region,” he said.

The project was one of five coordinated by the governor’s action team that had been pending since last year. The group of economic development professionals serve as liaisons between the administration and businesses looking to relocate into or expand in Pennsylvania.

According to a report on the team’s activities between 2019 and 2020, their efforts preserved more than 9,200 jobs and created more than 1,200 new positions in the state’s southwest region.

“The commonwealth stepped up to assist us in creating an attractive construction financing package to allow for their continuing growth,” said Bob Shark, executive director of the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council. “The expansion we’re providing for them is another milestone in our overall economic development efforts.”

The DCED awarded the company a $121,000 Pennsylvania First Grant and $60,000 in additional grant funding for workforce training. The company’s landlord also secured a low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority for an undisclosed amount.

“The best in technological innovation and manufacturing expertise are givens when it comes to national security,” said Mark Thomas, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. “This convergence is core to the Pittsburgh region’s industrial legacy and future.”

The news comes as the state’s job creation stagnates, according to an update released earlier this month from the Independent Fiscal Office. The statewide unemployment rate for April, the most-recent data available, hovered around 7.4%, still well above the national average.

The Department of Labor and Industry said earlier this year the state lost 500,000 jobs in 2020 that it may never recover. While the largest declines occurred across the hospitality sector, shifting state and federal energy policies also have triggered additional layoffs in the power sector, such as the Cheswick Generating Station’s decision to shut down operations announced earlier this month.

GenOn Holdings, the operator of the 565MW coal plant first commissioned in 1970 on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, said its decision was cemented by “unfavorable economic conditions, higher costs including those associated with environmental compliance, an inability to compete with other generation types, and evolving market rules that promote subsidized resources.”

“The decision to retire a power plant is always a difficult one for employees and the local communities. These are not decisions taken lightly,” GenOn CEO Dave Freysinger said. “GenOn will provide transition assistance, including advance notice, severance payments and access to health care, in accordance with our contracts and policies to all affected workers.”

An analysis from the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy determined Pennsylvania’s goods-producing jobs – including mining and logging, manufacturing and construction – declined 6.3% in 2020.

“The job losses in this sector could continue or possibly worsen if the governor follows through on the threat to impose an additional extraction tax on the natural gas industry or forces Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” the analysis concluded.

The state is on track to enter RGGI, a program that caps carbon emissions from power generators, in early 2022. Wolf maintains participation in the program will usher in 27,000 new jobs in clean energy over the next decade.

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