Officials Hope Efforts Keep Truck-Lite In County
FALCONER — Local officials are awaiting word on whether year-long efforts to keep a longtime company in Chautauqua County pay off.
Mark Geise, chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, confirmed Monday that Truck-Lite has been looking at possibly relocating about 100 employees from its longtime home on East Elmwood Avenue in Falconer. It is believed the manufacturer of truck and trailer safety lighting is viewing three potential options: remain in Chautauqua County at a new, more economically feasible location; move to a new site to be constructed over the state line in Warren County; or move operations to the Erie, Pa., region.
Truck-Lite recently ceased manufacturing at its Falconer plant, though it did retain its corporate offices in the village.
The sprawling facility is currently up for sale, with a $5.5 million asking price online.
Geise said the Falconer site is “too much building” for Truck-Lite now that manufacturing has officially ceased. “We’ve been working with them for a year trying to keep them here,” he said.
One option explored was moving the corporate offices to an existing building elsewhere in the south county. However, Geise said no facility locally matches what Truck-Lite is looking for at the moment. “Nothing really seemed to fit the bill,” he said.
In the end, the county IDA offered the company land to build a new site at the Mason Industrial Park, located nearby in the town of Ellicott. Also included is a payment in lieu of taxes agreement and funding in the form of a state grant.
“We came up with a generous offer,” Geise said, later adding, “We activated a design-build firm for them to come up with a design (for a new building). We hustled as best we could, but COVID and the budget crisis came up. But in the end, we came up with fairly quite an attractive offer. We’ll see if it’s enough — I’m hoping it’s enough.”
Geise estimates constructing a new building at the industrial park would cost between $4 million and $5 million. He said the offer that was submitted includes providing the land at no cost to Truck-Lite.
The incentive package came together around the end of March, shortly after the state finalized its budget. “We got it to them as fast as we could,” Geise said. “I feel really good with what we offered.”
Any deal would require approval from the county IDA board; Geise believes the board would fully support efforts to keep the company in Chautauqua County.
Warren County officials also are eagerly awaiting Truck-Lite’s decision. The Northwest Regional Planning Commission applied for — and was awarded — $1.5 million in state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds that were part of the 2020 funding round for the project.
Officials with the Northwest Commission said the commission applied on behalf of the Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry.
According to state RACP documents, the project will include acquisition of 29 acres of “development ready property” and a revised zoning designation “for the property based upon professional office, light manufacturing activities.”
The proposal would also “sub-divide one lot sized appropriately for the needs of Truck-Lite or another professional office tenant yet to be identified.”
The site is on parcels south of the Pine Grove surgical center in Russell, Pa., that were partially developed — roads, sidewalks, sewers — by a Warren General Hospital senior living project that was thwarted in large measure by the 2008 recession.
The property hasn’t yet been acquired.
State grant documents indicate that the plan is to “construct a roughly 20,000 (square foot) professional office building which will include roughly 5,000 (square feet) of product development and test lab space.”
A final decision from Truck-Lite, according to WCCBI President/CEO Jim Decker, has not yet been made.
But regardless of their decision, the funding will be able to stay in Warren County.
“We have flexibility with the approval of the state,” Decker said. “Should the Truck-Lite program not come to fruition, we do have the flexibility to reallocate those funds to another project. (I’m) not sure what that project will be. The legislation does not tie it to Truck-Lite.”
Truck-Lite was founded by George D. Baldwin in 1955 in rented quarters in Jamestown. Ground was broken in 1966 at the Elmwood Avenue location in Falconer at an estimated cost of $800,000.
The company also consists of Truck-Lite Road Ready; DAVCO Technology in Saline, Mich.; RIGID Industries in Gilbert, Ariz.; Truck-Lite Mexico; and Truck-Lite Europe.
Josh Cotton in Warren contributed to this story.