By JOSELYN KING
Special to The News and Sentinel
WHEELING - The Pietro Fiorentini Group of Vicenza, Italy - a maker of valves, meters and components for the oil and gas industry - announced Thursday it will build its first American manufacturing plant near the heart of the energy industry in Weirton.
Mario Nardi, left, chief executive officer for the Pietro Fiorentini Group of Vicenza, Italy, shows Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin examples of a product manufactured at its location on Peninsula Street in Wheeling.
Since March 2013, Pietro Fiorentini has operated a production unit in a shared building on Peninsula Street in Wheeling near the Wheeling Industrial Park. The company has about 15 employees at the location, according to Chief Executive Officer Mario Nardi.
Nardi expects the proposed plant, to be located in the Three Springs Drive Industrial Park in Weirton, could be constructed in the next two years and will employ as many as 50 employees when fully operational. Nardi said the cost of the project has yet to be determined.
Nardi addressed political and business leaders including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin at the company's Wheeling location where he detailed why Pietro Fiorentini chose the state as the place to build its first manufacturing plant in America.
The company, founded in 1938, has seven factories in Italy, two others in Europe, three in China, the production unit in Wheeling and 20 regional centers throughout the world.
Texas, New York, North Carolina and Georgia recruited Pietro Fiorentini to build its American manufacturing plant there, he said. The company chose the larger Marcellus and Utica shale sites in West Virginia and Ohio, Nardi said.
The company also considered how close proposed sites were to highways, airports and areas with strong engineering and technical schools, Nardi said.
"We applied the metrics to make our decision, and the best scoring was for West Virginia," he said. "We had different competitors, but you were it. That's very important. We need to invest in the local know-how and people. This will be a big opportunity for us and for all the people involved. We are here for a long-term commitment and we want to make the best decision."
Nardi said employees from the company have been traveling back between Vicenza and Wheeling to begin the establishment of manufacturing operations in America. In the coming months, the company will develop its workforce and find quality engineers from U.S. universities to join them.
The workers "will be visiting our factories in Italy so as to understand our culture and know how," he said. "We will be joining the best of Italian culture and know how with the best of American culture and know-how. We will take the best from both."
Tomblin said he traveled to Italy in October to meet with representatives of Pietro Fiorentini as the state seeks to capitalize on its energy reserves.
"As this industry continues to grow, new jobs will be created," he said. "Our manufacturing segment will be revitalized. In four years, we will require an additional 20,000 college graduates in West Virginia, and that's just to maintain the economy we have."
Don Rigby, executive director of the Regional Economic Development Partnership in Wheeling, said Pietro Fiorentini is one of six Italian companies working with his office that have chosen to locate to the Ohio Valley.