WEIRTON — The Weirton community welcomed a new international neighbor Wednesday, with a ceremony marking the arrival of Fanti USA to the Upper Ohio Valley.
A subsidiary of Italian company Gruppo Fanti, Fanti USA will be the manufacturer’s first operation in the United States as well as its largest expansion.
To be located in the former Signode building in the Half Moon Industrial Park, Fanti USA plans a $30 million investment for the building, according to Marvin Six, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle.
“Thank you. We appreciate you,” Six said in welcoming officials from Gruppo Fanti.
Once operational, the facility will manufacture metal packaging containers with state-of-the-art equipment. Officials anticipate the creation of 40 new jobs by early 2023.
Nicola DeSantis, treasurer and board member for Fanti USA, expressed the company’s appreciation for the welcome to the Weirton community.
“I’m really proud to represent Gruppo Fanti here in America for our biggest expansion,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis explained the company studied many areas of the country when deciding to locate an operation in the United States, eventually deciding on the Rust Belt region because of its history with manufacturing and the dedication of its workforce.
He noted the relationships built with officials locally and in Charleston helped to make the selection of West Virginia over Ohio and Pennsylvania possible.
“It’s because of the friendship of West Virginians,” DeSantis said, pointing, in particular, to the support of the staff at the West Virginia Development Office.
Also in attendance was Luca Fanti, chief technical officer and son of company founder Giorgio Fanti.
Fanti recalled the story of his father, who grew up in Bologna, Italy, and began his enterprise in 1945 by recovering empty tuna cans brought by American servicemen as part of the city’s liberation during World War II.
“He had no degree. His family was not rich,” Fanti explained, noting his father would study the cans and figure out how to make them himself. Ultimately, he journeyed to the United States, visiting Pittsburgh to learn more about the production of tinplate and its use in products.
“Step-by-step, he started to produce,” Fanti said. “I’m proud to remember my father.”
Giorgio Fanti would purchase his first tinplate sheet in 1948, and his first automatic machine for assembling cans in 1963.
Today, the company has five production facilities in Europe, Africa and Asia, manufacturing more than 100 million cans per year.
Mitch Carmichael, West Virginia’s secretary of economic development, noted the opportunities for local families and the Northern Panhandle Fanti USA will provide.
“Often, we don’t stop and think about how important a job is,” Carmichael said, noting the effects a job has on a family, and even a community, for generations. “This is such a rewarding day.”
Weirton Mayor Harold Miller offered his own thanks, looking back on the closure of the Ball Corp. facility in the city shortly after he took office and some of the businesses which have come to the area since then.
“We have the opportunities Mr. Weir had years ago,” Miller said, pointing to the available land and transportation options as selling points to help attract new companies.
“There’s a real history here,” Miller said. “There’s a great workforce ready to be hired.”
Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis pointed to the cooperative spirit shown in the efforts to provide economic development opportunities in recent years.
“This is what happens when city officials, state officials and county officials, and the appropriate agencies, work together,” Ennis said. “We are so appreciative they have chosen Brooke County and the City of Weirton for their first expansion in the United States.”
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)