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New life for former Techneglas plant

Open house June 21 to show off building where 2500 were once employed

The ’hot end’ of the old plant, visible in this photo, will be demolished.

Photos by tony callaio

IDC president Barret Einauglea gives reporters a golf cart tour of the huge facility.

Thanks to Greystone & Co. the former Techneglas plant in Jenkins Township, which closed in 2004, didn’t turn into a “brownfield” site, as abandoned industrial complexes are called.

Quite the opposite.

With millions of dollars being invested in demolition, clean up, repairs and upgrades the Techneglas facility is being transformed into a warehouse, distribution and manufacturing center called Interstate Distribution Center (IDC.)

The owner, developer and manager of IDC is Pittston Industrial LLC, an affiliate of Greystone, a billion dollar company headquartered in New York City. An open house is scheduled for June 21 to show off the building.

IDC President Barret Einauglea said IDC can give the local economy a lift.

“The opportunity here is to take an old manufacturing facility which would alternatively would become a real problem for the county and the township and create a facility that will attract new businesses so that we can try to make up for the jobs that were lost,” he said. “When you lose 2,000 good-paying factory jobs it’s got a domino effect across the region. We’ve done a great deal with the warehouse section and its every bit as competitive as any facility out there.”

Everything about the facility is enormous. The property is 233 acres. There are 23 acres of space, that’s one million square feet, under roof with 23 to 26 foot ceiling heights and an onsite power substation with two 69,000 volt power lines.

To Einauglea the substation is one of IDC’s best selling points. “Two separate electric grids is the type of infrastructure that couldn’t be built today,” he said.

The power station allows IDC tenants to buy power at a 45 percent discount, which is attractive to manufacturing, high technology firms and data centers.

Another selling point is the Reading and Northern Railroad which serves the facility. “We have a good relationship with Reading and Northern,” Einauglea said.

The warehouse section of the facility has been upgraded with the installation of T5 high bay lights, micro particle sprinklers, state of the art security systems, and 32 modern hydrolytic loading docks.

There are three tenants in the warehouse section, including a bulk paper pulp distributor which brings in 500 pound blocks and supplies paper manufactured with different grades of pulp.

Warehousing is fine, but manufacturing would create more jobs. Einauglea said IDC is negotiating with one manufacturer, which he couldn’t name because of a confidentiality agreement. But he did say, “They would initially bring in 100 jobs and more as the operation grows. This will be there second location, they have one in Arizona and this will be there East Coast operation.”

To encourage manufacturing tenants the next and final step in the rehab of the facility is the demolition of what is known as the “hot end” housing the cavernous glass furnaces, each of which could hold a tractor trailer with room to spare.

That work will start later this month and will cost more than $4 million, $1 million of which will come from state RECAP grant.

“We’ve been working with the state and the township on environmental issues regarding the demolition and we have a plan that has been thoroughly reviewed by DEP and the Jenkins board of supervisors,” Einauglea said.

The contrast between the furnace area, which resembles a rust belt facility, and the gleaming rehabilitated areas offers a stunning before and after which emphasizes the quality of the work.

Brian Ambromovage, of Wyoming, is a hold-over employee from Techneglas who is now the IDC property manager. He talked about what it was like in the heyday of the plant in the 1990s.

“On a good day with three furnaces and nine shops going they were making 40,000 face plates, the equivalent of 800 tons of glass,” he said.

The furnaces ran 24/7, which required the enormous power supplied by the 69,000 volt grids. It’s said that under the right conditions the hum of power could be heard in adjacent neighborhoods.

Techneglas, previously known as OI-NEG and Owens-Illinois, was built in 1968 to manufacture television face plates, the thick glass coverings on picture tube televisions. In its heyday in the mid to late ‘90s, 2,500 workers were employed.

Jenkins Township supervisor Stanley Rovinski said it has been estimated that Techneglas pumped $10 million a year into the local economy during peak production.

Rovinski said IDC may not have that kind of impact, but he believes it should be generating more regional interest. “People say it’s all about Jenkins, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s good for the whole area.”

Einauglea said politicians have been helpful. He hopes to attract realtors and developers to the open house on June 21.

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