Firm wants to bring back jobs at former O-I site

By MARISSA DECHANT – Staff writer

Eight years after the Owens-Illinois glass plant closure in Clarion, one local land development firm is preparing to break ground on an industrial business park project next month in the hope of drawing jobs back to the area.

GlassWorks Business Park, a project under development by Miles Brothers, LLC, will be located on the site of the former glass plant at 151 Grand Ave.

The $33 million project will take 18 to 24 months to complete once work starts on the 28-acre site, said Ryan Miles, one of the Clarion-based firm’s owners.

The park will be the first of its kind in Clarion.

“Our intention is to develop it into a business park and renew it to industrial status so businesses could move in there,” Miles said.

The glass plant was 105 years old when it shuttered its doors and put 420 people out of work in Clarion, a town with a population of a little more than 5,000.

In 2014, Miles Brothers acquired the glass plant property from an out-of-state company and completed demo work between March and April this year.

Miles Brothers has the construction and development background that Miles said is needed to create a site for established businesses looking to expand or update their facilities.

Seven buildings, between 20,000 to 50,000 square feet each, will be constructed, allowing for a number of industrial businesses in fields such as manufacturing and fabrication.

“Our intentions are that it isn’t a hi-tech business park,” Miles said. “We’re looking for places to put people to work who might not have extensive secondary education, can get training on the job and make a decent living.”

Clarion County Industrial Development Authority received $5.3 million in state funding last year to support the endeavor, which will open up a minimum of 250 on-site jobs, said Miles.

Advantages to the business park structure include its proximity to Interstate 80 and central location to cities like New York and Chicago. It also has utility hookups ready to go, Miles said.

 “What we’re adding is we’re absorbing a lot of the expenses,” Miles said. “If you were a business and found a piece of property, you’d have to go through engineering, permits and water, gas, sewer and electrical hookups to the property. It’s time-consuming,” he said.

“Envision bringing a mobile home into a mobile home park and hooking it up,” Miles added.

Miles said his firm has already gained the interest of two businesses and is in the paperwork stage with one.

A groundbreaking event will take place at the site at 1:30 p.m. June 15.

“We want to have homes full in this community and have people come back to the area. That’s our biggest goal,” Miles said.