LEWISTOWN - When Kardex USA closed its doors in the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation's plaza last year, a decision was made by the MCIDC board to step back and reassess how to use buildings 35 and 36.
Kardex announced the plan to close its Lewistown plant in November 2011. A manufacturer of automated storage and retrieval systems that previously had about 70 employees at the local facility, the plant's production operation has been transferred to other facilities owned by its parent company, Swiss-based Kardex AG.
MCIDC president Rob Postal said the plaza took a hit when Kardex closed, especially since MCIDC had worked very closely with the company to secure funding and resources.
Sentinel photo by KIERNAN M. SCHALK
The future location of a new Skills outpost in the MCIDC plaza which will employ people to assemble components from Bonney Forge in Huntingdon County.
However, Postal said the closure presented a new opportunity to re-evaluate how to use the 225,000 square foot building. He said the board came to the conclusion that attracting a large company to move into the former Kardex building was not in the cards.
"We shifted our strategy to sub-divide for smaller and medium-sized companies," he said.
MCIDC embarked on a $675,000 joint investment with the Economic Development Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The EDA provided a little more than $475,000 for the project, with MCIDC funding the remainder.
The major components of the project consisted of a roof, new sprinkler systems and the building of internal walls.
Postal said the biggest challenge has been creating separate access points for individual companies.
There have already been some companies that moved into the former Kardex building, including Fidelity Paper and Supply Company who needed the extra space as the company continues to grow.
In turn, Nittany Paper Mills moved into the former Fidelity building because they also needed a bigger space to expand their operation.
Postal said Skills of Central Pennsylvania is in the process of setting up a location in one of the buildings formerly occupied by Kardex.
He also said a loading dock was built to accommodate Skills workers, who will be assembling components manufactured by Bonney Forge in Huntingdon County.
Postal foresees this shift to lighter manufacturing playing a part in transforming the plaza into a more communal area, where people can walk around freely throughout the plaza.
In addition, Postal said he would like to see MCIDC take advantage of the area's most valuable natural resource, the Juniata River.
Postal envisions a stretch of the plaza property along the river where people can sit at a table or bench and eat their lunch and enjoy
Postal said these are long-term plans, but it's an idea that should be pursued and would help to attract new businesses to the plaza.